In reporting quarterly earnings Tuesday, HP chief executive Mark Hurd told Wall Street analysts that HP's plans for the operating system went beyond mobile phones to a variety of devices, including slate computers and printers.
"We expect to leverage WebOS into a variety of form factors, including slate computers and Web-connected printers," Hurd said during the conference call.
HP announced late last month that it would purchase smartphone maker Palm for $1.2 billion in cash. Analysts consider WebOS the crown jewel of Palm's portfolio, and industry observers assumed HP would use the software in future mobile devices, including slate computers. The company in March unveiled plans for a tablet-style PC to compete with Apple's iPad.
However, the use of WebOS in printers was unexpected. Many analysts had focused instead on what the OS could do for HP in the mobile market. Besides an operating system, WebOS is a development platform open to applications from third-party developers, and Palm has an online application store that offers software for its smartphones.
"While HP is behind in the consumer mobile market in comparison to Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, TBR believes there is viable opportunity for HP to gain traction in the commercial mobile markets," Jessica Breen, analyst for Technology Business Research, said in a commentary following HP's earnings release.
Use of WebOS in printers makes sense, given HP's strategy for growing its printer business when an increasing number of people are using online photo services to share pictures electronically. Last summer, HP introduced its first Internet-connected inkjet printer that lets people print coupons, movie tickets, maps, and other items from Web sites without having to turn on a PC.
HP reported that revenue in the second fiscal quarter ended April 30 rose 8% year-to-year for its imaging and printing group, which TBR said was "strong growth for this division."
Overall, HP reported that profits in the quarter rose 28% year-to-year to $2.2 billion, or 91 cents a share, as revenue grew 13% to $30.8 billion. A key driver was increased spending on computers by consumers and businesses in an improving economy.