August 18, 2011 weblog
HP's webOS moves out of tablet foxhole into appliance mode
(PhysOrg.com) -- HP is set to spread the wings of its operating system for its smartphones and TouchPad tablet, webOS, and plant it into a wider technology space of an OS for cars and household appliances. HPs webOS chief, Stephen DeWitt, who leads the webOS global business unit, is on an HP mission to build up an ecosystem of developers and manufacturers, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. DeWitt said HP is looking into webOS embedded into cars and appliances. He said HP was into talks with auto and appliance makers but he did not specify any company names. HPs webOS has a touchscreen interface and Internet connectivity.
In late June, there was talk about HP courting Samsung. The potential win for HP would be in the fact that HP could license the software to Samsung, as a key hardware maker. Leo Apotheker, HP CEO, said HP was similarly talking to other companies about the webOS too.
An operating system, on commercial terms, is only as viable as is the number of manufacturers and developers willing to climb on board. HP has good reason to be aggressive in growing a WebOS ecosystem, considering its investment in the webOS with its purchase of Palm at $1.2 billion last year. Sales of the HP tablet TouchPad which features webOS, have been less than startling.
Beyond use in smartphones and tablets, Apotheker has championed the webOS as a superior operating system. "It's not correct to believe that it should only be on HP devices. There are all kinds of other people who want to make whatever kind of hardware they make and would like to connect them to the Internet," he has said.
Making the webOS a device-compatible platform of choice for the future has been pushed to the top as an HP agenda item. Besides wanting to rev up a mission for cars and appliances, HP has sought to make a business-adoption case for webOS as enterprise-ready.
Its not just about the tablet, Richard Kerris, an HP vice president, has said. Its about the OS, the ecosystem and connecting devices like phones, printers, tablets and computers together.
As for the OS chance of hitting a home run in the car and home-appliance industry, it is recognized that the competitive edge for appliance makers in the future will involve how smart their appliances can be. Users will grow accustomed to embedded systems in their kitchens that can tell them when the milk is running low or how to make an omelet.
Likewise, the auto industry is using smart systems in numerous ways.
Is the webOs, though, offering compelling enough reasons for manufacturers to scurry on board? Thats the question being asked by HP-watchers. They see a tough road ahead. Thilo Koslowski, analyst, notes that auto makers dont take lightly the idea of switching technology partners in whom they have already invested.
Microsofts embedded Windows OS is in use in appliances and vehicles; Googles Android is reported to be gaining momentum as well.
Last year, Panasonic Avionics, developers of entertainment systems for airplanes, said that it will use Android in products. Whirlpool told the WSJ it would not be adding the HP webOS to its appliances.
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