According to a report this morning from CNET that has since been pulled (though we have independently verified) LG is purchasing the webOS Global Business Unit from HP, including all of its patents, employees, and source code. This news follows our exclusive report in October that LG was working with HP to develop a webOS-powered smart TV. Our sources tell us that LG now anticipates launching their first webOS-powered HDTV at CES 2014.
Palm, and by extension webOS, was purchased by HP just under three years ago for $1.2 billion, invested billions in launching new hardware and expanding the reach of webOS to PCs, and then abruptly cancelled hardware development before ultimately opting to open source the operating system.
Those joining LG will be positioned under the office of LG CTO President and CEO Skott Ahn and not as part of the television group. The arrangement might be similar to that the webOS GBU was put under in 2010, when they were slotted under HP's Office of Strategy and Technology incubator while the decision of what exactly to do with the OS was being made.
The end goal of LG buying webOS like this is the same as their partnership from last year: to make a webOS-powered television to replace LG's aging NetCast smart TV platform. We and CNET have seen no indication that LG intends to use webOS to supplement their Android smartphone business, though with LG coming in at fifth place in the global smartphone share rankings with less than five percent market share, nothing's impossible. LG at the very least has the experience and manpower in mobile they would need to bring webOS up to modern standards.
That said, as much as we would love to see webOS for mobile from LG, we doubt that's going to happen. With LG snapping up the majority of HP's webOS programming talent and dedicating it to their smart television endeavours, we would be shocked to see webOS hit LG's other endeavours. Even in fifth place, LG's managed to sell more Android smartphones and than HP did webOS devices.
Though, there might be some hope for other webos-powered LG products, as CNET quotes Ahn as saying "It creates a new path for LG to offer an intuitive user experience and Internet services across a range of consumer electronics devices." Read into that what you will, but don't put too much of your money on LG webOS smartphones and tablets.
We also would be surprised to see webOS as we know it come from anybody else to mobile. While HP might technically still own the operating system and the code has been fully committed to open source, without the resources of the webOS GBU to assist third parties in the development of webOS hardware (as they did with LG) it's just not all that likely a third party is going to produce webOS hardware. Granted, it wasn't all that likely before, now it's just less so. We still hope that the soon-to-be-LG employees of the webOS GBU will still be assisting the WebOS Ports team in their own efforts to bring Open webOS to more hardware.
Those of you with webOS devices, though, CNET says that LG will continue with HP's support commitments, though we have to wonder how long that will last - it's been 18 months since the last webOS device sales, and there's HP's homebrew connections to look after as well.
We have reached out to both LG and HP and are awaiting comment.
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