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HP to license webOS

By James • Jun 2nd, 2011 • Category: Industry News

HP to license webOS » Mobile Computing News

While WebOS had a high profile when the Palm Pre released, with HP going virtually radio silent since acquiring Palm, the much-loved mobile OS platform fell off of many people’s grid. Now HP CEO Leo Apotheker has come forward to say his company has big plans for the web-based OS beyond those it has internally, and that they may consider licensing it to other manufacturers.

Apotheker made this revelation at the D9 tech conference today. During his interview, he revealed that the company has plans to make the platform available to partners who plan on providing mobility services to their customer base.
Apotheker said: ‘WebOS will also be adopted by many partners who provide services to small and medium businesses.’ He continued, saying: ‘Traditionally HP has a strong channel into medium companies. …I happen to believe that WebOS is a uniquely outstanding operating system. It’s not correct to believe that it should only be on HP devices. There are all kinds of other people who want to make whatever kind of hardware they make and would like to connect them to the Internet. We’ll make it available to enterprises and to SMBs. It will run on lots of HP devices.’

What’s obviously striking about this is that HP Palm would be taking a more Google Android like approach to their mobile OS platform, having devices ‘manufactured’ in-house, but also licensing the system to third-party device manufacturers. This would be in opposition to the Apple way, of having their mobile OS available on HP devices only.

Strategically, this is an interesting move, because what made webOS so interesting was it meant hardware and software would be handled by one company, meaning HP Palm was playing in its own zone. Now, flirting with licensing to third parties puts HP in direct competition with the titanic Google Android platform, as well as the highly competitive Windows Phone 7.

It’s hard to know what to make of this, and whether it represents Hewlett-Packard overplaying their hand with a widely revered mobile OS platform. I mean do smartphones, tablet PCs, netbooks or even desktops need yet another third-party operating system?