Hewlett-Packard is apparently 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 its upcoming TouchPad tablet.
"I can share with you that a number of companies have expressed interest," he 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, with a March 9 Bloomberg report quoting Apotheker as saying the move could create a "massive platform."
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 desktops.
In theory, webOS would allow HP to create Apple-style synergy between products in different categories. Unlike Apple, though, HP's aggressive moves risk alienating a crucial partner.
"I have little doubt this further soured the relationship between HP and Microsoft, who likely wasn't given any heads up on this and has undoubtedly had to explain it to board members, financial analysts and a number of customers by now," Rob Enderle, principal analyst of the Enderle Group, told eWEEK in March soon after HP announced its broad-based webOS plans. "HP remains Microsoft's biggest seller of Windows PCs, and anything they can do to weaken the franchise-and this does that on paper-is a problem for them."
PCs dual-booted with webOS will apparently begin shipping in early 2012. In the meantime, a more immediate challenge awaits HP and its operating system: the tablet market.
HP is gearing up to release its 9.7-inch TouchPad tablet July 1, with additional rumors that the company is prepping a 7-inch version for release at a later point. In the United States, HP will offer the 16GB version of the device for $499.99, and the 32GB version for $599.99. 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."