Rubinstein opens door to licensing WebOS

The head of the Palm group at HP said the company could license the operating system

HP is open to licensing the WebOS operating system, but only to very select companies, an executive said on Wednesday.

"HP is more than willing to partner with one or two special companies," said Jon Rubinstein, who runs the Palm unit at HP. "But at the same time, HP is not interested in being in the general licensing business." Rubinstein spoke at a Qualcomm conference that was webcast.

A "special" company would be one that brings value to WebOS, not one that already makes phones using a variety of operating systems, he said. "But if someone wants to put a real focus on contributing and building the WebOS ecosystem, that would be something we're interested in," he said.

Palm has licensed its software in the past, but with the launch of the new WebOS software, the company initially did not have a licensing program. However, when sales of WebOS products proved weak, Rubinstein, who ran Palm before HP bought it, changed course and said he was open to licensing.

Despite WebOS's small market share, Rubinstein thinks it has an edge over competitors. "We're well-positioned, HP is, for where this marketplace is going to go," he said. People are going to want various devices that connect and interact, he said. With WebOS running on phones, tablets and even PCs, people will be able to connect those devices.

HP's TouchPad, which runs WebOS, is expected to go on sale this month. Users will be able to touch a Palm phone to the pad, and the phone will automatically display the Web page that's on the screen of the tablet.

HP also has plans for bringing WebOS to computers, he said. WebOS will not replace Windows but will run on top of it, he said. That will let users keep the traditional Windows experience that they're used to but get "enhanced capabilities" by adding WebOS on top of it, he said.

Competition among mobile OSes will be a long-term battle, Rubinstein said. "There's room for tremendous innovation and capability that's going to come in the next 10 years. I don't look at this as who's going to win this in the next quarter," he said.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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