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Will HP Licence webOS?

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HP really needs to get its stories straight before releasing executives into the wild to speak to journalists. Yesterday CEO Léo Apotheker spoke about his willingness to see webOS on phones from the likes of HTC, while just down the road, fellow-exec Jon Rubinstein said the company didn’t want to talk to any company already producing handsets running rival OSes.

Apotheker was speaking at the D9 conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California where he mentioned that webOS, which HP purchased from Palm last year, could be used on non-HP handsets. While he was speaking generally about enterprise devices, when pushed on whether HP would be willing to licence webOS to manufacturers like say HTC, Apotheker said he would be more than willing to sit down and discuss the proposal with them. Whether this was posturing or whether the CEO is in secret talks with manufacturers already is open to speculation.

While the boss was in Rancho Palos Verdes, Rubinstein was down the road in San Diego at the Qualcomm Uplinq conference where he had a different tale to tell. He admitted that HP was willing to partner with "one or two special companies" which will add something special to the webOS family of gadgets. However, he went on to say that HP was not interested in general licensing and would not be speaking to companies which were manufacturing handsets running Android or Windows Phone 7 – which pretty much seems to rules out all manufacturers of phones. So HTC are out then but the question is, who do we believe - the boss or his underling? Apotheker has been known to make sweeping statements in the past, including a boast earlier this year that webOS would be on 100 million PCs by 2012, so maybe we should take what he says with a pinch of salt.

With the HP Pre 3 and Veer handsets still to launch, webOS has certainly not made the kind of impact HP would have hoped it would and with only 7,000 apps available, expansion to other phone manufacturers would seem like a sensible idea. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens when Apotheker and Rubinstein get back to HP headquarters and decide exactly what it is that they are doing with webOS.

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