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HP negotiating WebOS licenses

Jun 30, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

As Hewlett-Packard prepares to ship the WebOS-based Touchpad tablet July 1, CEO Leo Apotheker dropped further hints his company will license the Linux-based mobile operating system to other vendors. The company is apparently negotiating over licensing WebOS to several manufacturers, including Samsung, according to a new report.

Hewlett-Packard is in negotiations with outside manufacturers to license its WebOS, according to CEO Leo Apotheker. WebOS currently runs on HP's Palm smartphones, as well as the TouchPad tablet (pictured) scheduled to ship on July 1.

"I can share with you that a number of companies have expressed interest," Apotheker told an interviewer in Beijing, as reported by Bloomberg June 29. "We are continuing our conversations."

Bloomberg also reported HP in discussions with Samsung over porting WebOS onto the latter's smartphones. That detail, which came from unnamed "people with knowledge of the discussions," was unconfirmed by either company. 

HP has made no secret of its intentions to port WebOS onto other manufacturers' devices. A March 9 Bloomberg report quoting Apotheker (pictured) as saying the move could create a "massive platform." Earlier this month, Apotheker was quoted by Reuters as saying, "It's not correct to believe that [WebOS] should only be on HP devices."

HP inherited WebOS when it purchased Palm for $1.2 billion in 2010. While Palm had limited use of the operating system to its smartphones, HP's intentions are much more broad-based, with designs on installing the OS on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and even as a dual-boot option on HP's Windows desktops.

In theory, WebOS would allow HP to create Apple-style synergy between products in different categories. Unlike in the Apple cases, though, HP's aggressive moves risk alienating a crucial partner in Microsoft. Those PCs dual-booted with WebOS will apparently begin shipping in early 2012. 

HP's decision not to expand its Windows 7 tablet offerings beyond the original Windows 7 Slate has added friction to the longtime relationship with Microsoft. However, a Fast Company story posted yesterday quoted Phil McKinney, president and CTO of HP's personal systems group, as saying "We don't do Android," but then hedging his bets when it came to the upcoming Windows 8.

"We're working very closely with [Microsoft], and I'm going to leave it at that or I'm going to start getting myself into trouble," McKinney was quoted as saying. 

Earlier this week, eWEEK quoted Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdry as saying Samsung, HTC, and Motorola are growing frustrated with Google and the Android market in general, and may well consider HP as an option for their smartphones and tablets. HP currently sells its HP Pre 3 (pictured) and lower-end HP Veer phones based on WebOS.

The manufacturers are said to be particularly concerned with a flood of low-cost Android products from Chinese vendors that could force price cuts or require further differentiation. Chowdry estimated that by licensing WebOS, OEM partners selling premium products could differentiate their brands from low-cost rivals such as Huawei and ZTE.

Industry analyst Jack Gold disagreed, however, telling eWEEK, "It's less likely that Samsung would want [WebOS] without having a significant ecosystem in place to promote it."

In addition to HP's planned July 1 release of its 9.7-inch TouchPad tablet, rumors popped up again earlier this week of a seven-inch WebOS tablet due as early as August. HP will offer the 9.7-inch Touchpad in the U.S. in a 16GB version selling for $500, and a 32GB version price at $600. The device relies on a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, faster than a significant portion of the tablets already on the market.

"What makes HP TouchPad a compelling alternative to competing products is WebOS," Jon Rubinstein, senior vice president and general manager of HP's Global Business Unit, wrote in a statement accompanying news of the release date. "The platform's unmatched features and flexibility will continue to differentiate HP products from the rest of the market for both personal and professional use. This is only the beginning of what HP's scale can do with WebOS."

Nicholas Kolakowski is a writer for eWEEK.

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