HP may open WebOS to other manufacturers

Posted by Mark Raby

WebOS, the mobile operating system originally owned by Palm and now HP, could become an open platform.

Speaking to reporters and industry professionals at the AllThingsD conference this week, HP CEO Leo Apotheker said, "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."

HP purchased WebOS, along with everything else that came with the now-defunct Palm, when it scooped up the company last year. However, it hasn't done a whole lot with it so far.

HP isn't known for being in the smartphone business, so its acquisition of Palm was seen as a great opportunity to move into that space. But here we are a year later and HP is still not a name that anyone associated with mobile technology.

Now, instead of trying to become a strong mobile manufacturer, it seems HP would rather license out its software. Apotheker specifically mentioned HTC as a manufacturer it would be willing to let make a WebOS-powered phone, after it charges a licensing fee of course.

"It is certainly something we would entertain," he said.

As for HP's own WebOS products, the company is getting ready to launch its flagship tablet, the TouchPad, which has a 9.7-inch touchscreen display.

To say the least, HP faces a tough battle to compete in the same space that is currently dominated by Android and the iPhone. But it's not necessarily a futile effort. Microsoft did the same thing with Windows Phone 7 and is managing to make inroads, though it is a slow process.

"Right now we are focused on getting it out in the market to gain the credibility. WebOS will also be adopted by many partners who provide services to small and medium businesses," Apotheker said.