LG’s next Smart TVs will run webOS

Two owners, rarely driven -- Palm’s webOS finds a new home in Korea and Silicon Valley

LG’s next generation of Smart TVs will run webOS, the mobile operating system developed by Palm and HP.

Cnet reports that LG will acquire the operating system from HP, but won’t initially use it for any of its smartphones — the software will be developed entirely to be used on the Korean company’s Web-connected LED and plasma televisions.

A mock-up of a potential LG webOS TV. Image credit: webosnation.com
A mock-up of a potential LG webOS TV. Image credit: webosnation.com

According to webOS Nation, LG plans to unveil its first webOS TV at CES in 2013. The newly-purchased operating system will replace LG's aging NetCast, which has been used since 2010. webOS has been owned by HP since 2010, when it purchased Palm for US$1.2 billion.

webOS Nation reported in October last year that LG was collaborating with Gram — the caretaker set up by HP to look after webOS after the company made it an open source project — to create a webOS-based Smart TV. That collaboration has clearly had successful beginnigs, with LG choosing to acquire the software’s source code, documentation, and associated websites from HP, and license its related patents.

HP will keep the cloud computing portion of webOS — the existing catalog of webOS mobile apps, updating services, and mechanisms for account backups — along with a list of associated patents in its in-house cloud services division.

The deal between HP and LG means that webOS will live again, although it is not clear exactly what role it will play in any upcoming Smart TV sets, and what advantages it could offer over Google’s more polished open-source Android operating system — which has already seen limited uptake in the connected TV market.

webOS was in its heyday from 2009 to 2011, when it was used by Palm on its UK- and US-only Pre, Pixi and Veer smartphones, and HP on its short-lived TouchPad tablet. Like Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, the software hinges heavily on an Internet connection, with user accounts relying on constant cloud syncing. webOS uses a ‘card’-based interface for multi-tasking that lets multiple applications run simultaneously, with multi-touch gestures for navigation rather than Android or iOS’s virtual or physical buttons.

In a future webOS TV, LG could use its strong background in mobile technology to integrate a large-screen TV with a small-screen touchscreen controller like a smartphone or tablet — able to replicate all the functions of a traditional remote control while allowing access to optimised apps, dual-screen video content, and ‘social television’. webOS’s gesture control system could translate equally well into camera-based motion control, as seen in Samsung’s 2012 Smart TVs.

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