HP Grooming webOS for Assault on Android, Apple iOS

HP CEO Leo Apotheker said he expects to seed the market with 100 million webOS-based PCs, laptops, printers, smartphones and tablets. Android and Apple will have something to say about that.

When new HP CEO Leo Apotheker said he expected the company's webOS platform on 100 million devices a year, he effectively declared war on Google's Android and Apple's iOS mobile platforms.

Apotheker made it clear at HP's Summit March 14 that webOS, the mobile operating system HP gained in its acquisition of Palm would be the centerpiece for the company's new push into mobile computing.

"webOS has the potential to become a very broad and very massive platform," Apotheker said, adding that he wants to get webOS running on desktop PCs, laptops, notebooks, tablets, smartphones and printers.

HP's current focus on webOS smartphones such as the Palm Pre 3, and webOS tablets such as the forthcoming TouchPad, mean the company plans to munch market share currently enjoyed by Apple's iPhone and iPad and Google Android smartphones and tablets.

"There is no doubt WebOS is a direct Android competitor (Apple as well). With it, HP wants to stake out its own ecosystem and rival the complete environments created by the others (think WebOS App Store, iTunes equivalent)," industry analyst Jack Gold told eWEEK.

But 100 million devices a year? That's ambitious, isn't it? Not necessarily. Gold said it should be easy for HP to reach those numbers if they put webOS on all printers and many of their mobile devices.

Others aren't so sure. Gartner Research analyst Ken Dulaney said that while HP introduced the Pre 3 and Veer slider phones last month, it has yet to produce a full touchscreen phone to compete with the iPhone or popular Android handsets such as the Samung Nexus S.

"They really needed to cement their capability to work on a full touchscreen device as a way of getting into the smartphone business, which is ultimately going to be a lot larger volume than the tablets," Dulaney said.

This will be tough to do at a time when Android and iPhone have become the dominant platforms in U.S. Even perennial smartphone leader Research in Motion is fading behind its upstart rivals.

Dulaney is more perplexed by HP's strategy to pair webOS with Microsoft Windows on desktops and laptops, allowing those computers to interact with HP's smartphones and tablets.