Looks like Palm's ill-fated webOS operating system may get another chance on the consumer market, as Korean electronics giant LG is reportedly acquiring HP's webOS Global Business Unit for an undisclosed sum. LG, best known for its smartphones and HDTVs, will obtain the source code, related documentation, engineering talent, and related webOS web sites. The company will also acquire licenses from HP, and those HP obtained from its acquisition of Palm.
LG is expected to make a formal announcement Monday afternoon from Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona, but early reports indicate that the company won't use the OS in its smartphones, but rather future Smart TVs. One unnamed source even claims that webOS team members who once worked on various mobile products at HP have already departed.
News of LG's acquisition of webOS may come as a surprise for some given the platform was seemingly left for dead despite HP's open-source attempt. But LG has reportedly hovered over the webOS carcass for some time, trying to determine if the platform would be edible. Skott Ahn, president and chief technology officer of LG Electronics, said it will create a new path for offering "an intuitive user experience and Internet services across a range of consumer electronics devices."
LG's acquisition of webOS adds a new chapter to the platform's long rollercoaster storyline. It was first developed by Palm to give the long-standing name a fresh look in the mobile space, a reinvention. It powered the Pre and Pre 2 smartphones, and showed some promise despite Palm's struggle against Apple and Google's Android.
Smelling the possible scent of victory, HP swooped in and acquired Palm for $1.2 billion in 2010, wanting the platform for its planned army of tablets and smartphones. But the TouchPad, launched in July 2011, fell flat on its face the moment it left the starting gate, thus HP pulled the plug on all webOS projects and discontinued the TouchPad in just over forty days on the market. The remaining inventory was sold off in a $99 fire sale.
Since then, HP has thrown the platform's license-free components into the open-source crowd. HP also kept the full OS close in case it decided to build webOS-based products down the road. But given that HP just announced a 7-inch tablet sporting Google's Android platform, it appears as if HP has abandoned all hopes of using webOS after all.
CNET reports that the webOS offices in San Jose and Chicago will be moved to LG's global R&D locations in Silicon Valley alongside LG's own Sunnyvale and San Francisco sites. In addition to acquiring the webOS platform,
LG said it will continue to support devices that use the OS.
The financial terms of the webOS acquisition were not disclosed as of this writing.
UPDATE: LG released an official announcement which can be accessed here. The company said that HP will continue to support Palm users. LG will also assume stewardship of the open source projects of Open webOS and Enyo. HP will retain ownership of all of Palm's cloud computing assets, including source code, talent, infrastructure and contracts.