HP Flogging WebOS To Home Appliance, Auto Makers


Hewlett-Packard is trying to convince home appliance and car manufacturers to license WebOS for use in their products, according to a Tuesday report in The Wall Street Journal.

In the interview, Stephen DeWitt, senior vice president and general manager of its WebOS global business unit, reportedly said there's an "enormous amount of interest" in WebOS but didn't identify the companies behind this purported groundswell of inquiries.

It's not surprising to see HP stepping up its efforts to get WebOS in front of a wider audience. HP TouchPad sales have been sluggish since the July 1 launch, as evidenced by HP's decision to offer a permanent $100 discount that took effect last week.

HP CEO Leo Apotheker said in June that he'd be open to the idea of licensing WebOS to third parties, including mobile device makers. And HP executives have long portrayed WebOS as more than a mobile device OS, suggesting that it could open new windows of functionality on PCs, printers, and a host of hinted-at but unspecified devices.

Travis Fisher, executive vice president at Inacom Information Systems, a Salisbury, Md.-based solution provider, doesn't sell the HP TouchPad but finds it interesting that HP is depicting WebOS as an OS that's suitable for a wide range of device scenarios.

Fisher thinks HP will have to get creative in order to build market share more quickly. "In order to rule the mobility space, you’ve got to have the best application selection. But nobody is going to spend their time and energy on building great apps unless there is that critical mass of users who want them and are willing to pay for them," Fisher said.

However, Fisher doubts whether all applications designed for PCs and mobile devices would have value when running on other platforms. "Facebook in your car? Not for me. A WebOS fridge that inventories the groceries inside and automatically updates the shopping list on your phone? Awesome," he said.

If HP doesn't fulfill its goal of facilitating a great big multi-industry block party around WebOS, it won't be for lack of evangelism from DeWitt, who last month took over the top WebOS executive post from Jon Rubinstein, the former Palm CEO who has since taken on a product innovation role in the Personal Systems Group.

"No one has ever had a playground of hundreds of millions of disparate devices to build applications on top. It's one thing to have a smartphone, but what about applications that run on all sorts of different things that create experiences that we haven't even envisioned yet?" DeWitt told CRN earlier this month. "What's most important for HP is to inspire the innovation we know is possible across the universe of devices that we can impact."