HP acquired webOS in 2010 when it purchased Palm for $1.2 billion. Terms of the sale to LG were not disclosed. LG gets the Open WebOS and Enyo open source projects, but HP will retain ownership of Palm's cloud computing assets and will continue to provide support for owners of Palm equipment.
LG will not use the mobile operating system in mobile devices, at least not yet. For now, the company says it will use the OS in its smart TVs. The announcement, which suggests a new and unexpected chapter in webOS's history, has many observers scratching their heads. "The move by LG to buy the webOS assets comes as something of a surprise," said Tony Cripps, devices and platforms analyst at Ovum.
[ What new technology do you want to see at this year's mobile event? Read Mobile World Congress 2013: What We Want. ]
The webOS mobile operating system started in 2009, when it and the Pre represented Palm's big comeback against the Apple iPhone and Google's Android. It failed. Palm was never able to execute and deliver compelling devices.
HP bought the struggling smartphone maker in 2010 and promised to revitalize the phone maker and mobile platform. It failed. HP never gave the company the backing it needed and pulled the plug on Palm's smartphones, tablets and webOS in August 2011. HP later decided to make the operating system available as an open source project.
"LG has clearly recognized a need to invest in greater software platform and user interface capabilities," said Cripps. "This comes at a time when device manufacturers are recognizing the need to differentiate through software-based innovation in user experience."
LG currently relies on Google's Android platform for its smartphones. In fact, it announced a slew of such devices at Mobile World Congress this week. LG has distanced itself from Microsoft's Windows Phone platform, though it did sell one WP7 smartphone in 2010. It is risky for LG to have only one operating system running all its devices. Samsung uses Android and Windows Phone, but it also has Bada/Tizen (Linux-based platforms that were merged this week). Bada/Tizen may not be a huge seller outside Korea, but Samsung has the platform in its back pocket if it ever needs to trot it out on a wider scale.
LG may not plan to use webOS in mobile devices in the near future, but the possibility cannot be discounted.
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