LG Becomes Latest WebOS Savior

Like a chainsaw-wielding maniac in a horror movie, the webOS operating system is proving impossible to kill.

LG Electronics announced Feb. 25 that it’s acquired the webOS operating system from Hewlett-Packard. “As part of the transaction, LG also will receive licenses under HP’s intellectual property (IP) for use with its webOS products,” read LG’s press release on the matter, “including patents acquired from Palm covering fundamental operating system and user interface technologies.”

Palm used webOS as the operating system for the Palm Pre smartphone, which made its debut in the summer of 2009. Despite high expectations from investors, the device failed to prove an “iPhone killer.” The next year, Hewlett-Packard bought Palm for $1.2 billion, acquiring webOS along with it. HP integrated the operating system into its TouchPad tablet. When that device failed to excite customers (it was removed from store shelves after a mere six weeks of sales), HP ended its attempt to make webOS a player in smartphones and tablets, opting to make the software open source.

Yet LG isn’t planning on integrating webOS into mobile devices. Instead, the operating system will end up in LG smart televisions. This seems logical, given smart televisions’ perpetual connection to the Web. The big question is which elements of webOS as a mobile operating system—including apps, Web browser, and native email—will extend to the television interface. In addition, webOS was built for touch; how exactly will television viewers navigate through the interface’s various menus and icons.

LG has the ability to work such questions out, since it’s inheriting the webOS engineering talent and “R&D capabilities.” While an unnamed source told CNET that LG has no plans to produce webOS smartphones, it remains to be seen whether the company will adapt the operating system to other devices.

“This groundbreaking development demonstrates LG’s commitment to investing in talent and research in Silicon Valley, one of the world’s innovation hotbeds,” Skott Ahn, president and chief technology officer for LG, wrote in a Feb. 25 statement. “It creates a new path for LG to offer an intuitive user experience and Internet services across a range of consumer electronics devices.”

And thus the long, strange webOS story continues.

 

Image: Open webOS Project Blog

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