HP CEO says open to licensing WebOS software

PALOS VERDES, Calif./SAN FRANCISCO Thu Jun 2, 2011 1:42am EDT

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PALOS VERDES, Calif./SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Hewlett-Packard Co sees the WebOS software it acquired from Palm running devices besides its own and is open to licensing the operating system, Chief Executive Leo Apotheker said.

"I happen to believe that WebOS is a uniquely outstanding operating system," said Apotheker, who was speaking at the D9 conference organized by the blog AllThingsD. "It's not correct to believe that it should only be on HP devices."

Asked if HP would consider licensing it to others, such as Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC Corp, Apotheker said, "It is certainly something we would entertain."

The ambitious plan for WebOS comes as HP is gearing up to launch its 9.7-inch TouchPad tablet, which is based on the WebOS software that HP acquired last summer in its $1.2 billion purchase of handheld device pioneer Palm.

WebOS is widely viewed as a strong platform, but HP faces an uphill battle to gain traction in the mobile market. Its products are arriving late to a market already crawling with competition from Apple Inc and devices based on Google Inc's Android.

Apotheker said he regretted that the company didn't take Palm and WebOS to market sooner.

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

HP, which also plans to incorporate the operating system into every printer priced over $100 along with using it to run smartphones, wants WebOS to be the No. 3 operating system, behind Apple's iOS and Google's Android.

The technology behemoth, which last month trimmed its sales forecast for the second straight quarter and needs to make headway in the mobile market, plans to leverage its massive global footprint to sell WebOS devices.

"It didn't catch on because Palm didn't have the resources to create the final quality nor could it get distributed widely enough to make it credible," Apotheker said.

(Reporting by Poornima Gupta and Sarah McBride; Editing by Richard Chang)

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