Report: HP In Talks To License WebOS To Third Parties

"We are talking to a number of companies," Apotheker said Wednesday at an industry event in Beijing, as reported by Bloomberg. He didn't offer additional details, but according to unnamed sources quoted by Bloomberg, HP has held talks with Samsung about using WebOS in its smartphones.

Rick Chernick, CEO of Camera Corner Connecting Point, a Green Bay, Wis.-based HP partner that's aggressively marketing the TouchPad in advance of the tablet's July 1 launch, believes licensing WebOS to third parties could raise HP's profile in the mobile space in relatively short order.

"The more HP licenses WebOS, the better off they'll be," said Chernick. "HP wants to build market share for WebOS, and allowing other companies to create products will be a great way for them to build interest."

Apotheker first raised the possibility of licensing WebOS to third parties in early June at the D9 conference, mentioning HTC as one of the mobile OEMs HP was looking at. The HP CEO is clearly enamored with WebOS and he's been having a tough time keeping this sentiment from bubbling over in public.

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"I happen to believe that webOS is a uniquely outstanding operating system. It’s not correct to believe that it should only be on HP devices," Apotheker said at D9.

Apotheker hasn't offered details about how he thinks WebOS licensing would work, but according to the Bloomberg report he said he's not in a hurry to make this happen. In any event, this would be a tricky maneuver for HP, which boasts a mobile portfolio that spans software and hardware and obviously needs to wring some advantage from that.

But HP needs developers to flock to WebOS if it's going to have any chance of catching up to Apple in the tablet space. Licensing WebOS to third parties could help HP gain a critical mass of developers quickly, but given the popularity of iOS and Android, doing so could be an uphill climb for HP.