HP will indeed sell key pieces of its webOS product and team to LG for use in smart TVs, but contrary to earlier leaked reports, the deal doesn't include the entire webOS portfolio. What's more, LG's plans include the possibility of eventually producing a phone or other mobile devices that run webOS, although the company remains focused on televisions in the short term. The result is a deal that looks like a clean exit from the webOS debacle for HP, and the beginnings of another muddled, confused chapter for Palm's operating system with LG at the helm.
According to HP COO Bill Veghte, LG will acquire the source code, documentation, websites, and team behind the client side of webOS, but HP will retain the entire cloud services division — that's the App Catalog, updating system, and other backend services that interact with webOS. "We see this as an opportunity to broaden our reach in delivering services to customers on a variety of plaforms," said Veghte. Most importantly, HP sees an opportunity to bring an app-store-like experience to large business customers who use cloud-based apps. "We can use this very broadly in our enterprise services organization," said Veghte, noting that these customers can deploy apps with tighter update and access policies in place using the technology.
HP seems confident, but LG seems hesistant and even confused
Importantly, HP will retain all of the patents associated with Palm and webOS; LG will license it from HP, although neither company would comment on the specifics of the license terms. LG will commit to continued participation in the open-source webOS project, and HP expects to benefit from LG's further development on webOS in the future.
But where HP appears to be confidently moving forward from the client side of webOS and investing in services, LG seems extremely hesitant, and even confused about its future plans for the OS. Asked how webOS could be used to create "disruptive" smart TV products absent any of the content deals that have thus far stunted TV innovation, LG CTO Dr. Skott Ahn simply said that he believes "the environment will change from an app environment to a web environment." Further asked to name the core benefit of the webOS platform for smart TVs, Dr. Ahn simply remained silent for 10 seconds, prompting LG's North American VP of smart TV Samuel Chang to add that "we're at the nascent stage" of smart TV development.
"We'll use Android together with webOS, but webOS is better in user experience."
And LG doesn't seem to have a firm long-term plan for webOS, and all options are on the table. "In the short term, we'll apply this to the TV only," said Dr. Ahn. "But in the future, wherever our plans take us, we'll consider an extension to other devices." Asked why it made more sense to invest in webOS than to repurpose Android, Ahn said that LG would use Android "together" with webOS, but that he thinks "webOS is better in some of the user experience, like card UI."