CES: LG Unveils WebOS Televisions

The new LG television interface.

LG Electronics is using this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to reveal more about its plans for webOS, the mobile operating system it purchased from Hewlett-Packard in early 2013.

LG intends to integrate webOS into its latest generation of smart televisions. According to the company, the software will form the backbone of a streamlined user interface, which will also feature voice control and gesture recognition. The webOS-equipped televisions will have the ability to multitask apps and “regular” viewing. (A translation of LG’s Korean press release is available via Google Translate.)

That’s not LG’s only CES announcement; the company also plans to roll out a wristband device capable of tracking everything from calorie consumption to distance walked every day. The hardware will come with “Heart Rate Earbuds” capable of—you guessed it—monitoring the wearer’s heartbeat. (Wearable electronics are slated to be a huge presence at this year’s CES, as various companies attempt to capitalize on a growing trend in wristband monitors and augmented-realty headsets.)

It’s easy to forget that, at one point, webOS seemed to have a promising future as a mobile OS. In 2009, Palm rolled out the Palm Pre, a sleek smartphone that some pundits and analysts believed could prove an iPhone killer; while Palm failed in that effort (thanks in large part to quality-control issues with the hardware, combined with concerns about slow software updates), the Linux-based webOS attracted praise for its sleekness and design.

In 2010, Hewlett-Packard acquired Palm for $1.2 billion and began integrating webOS into a portfolio of smartphones and tablets. But disaster struck again: the HP TouchPad, the first device in that new lineup, earned some positive reviews but failed to capture consumer imaginations, and HP decided to pull it from store shelves after a mere six weeks of release. After that debacle, HP’s webOS phones never had a chance.

In February 2013, LG Electronics announced it had acquired webOS from HP for an undisclosed sum. “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 at the time, “including patents acquired from Palm covering fundamental operating system and user interface technologies.” (HP continues to hold onto some patents related to the technology.)

LG evidently believes that the simplified and intuitive interface of a mobile OS will translate well to televisions, and it could prove right on that front. But it’s tempting to look at the latest incarnation of webOS and wonder what might have been.


Image: LG