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HP CEO: We might license WebOS

At D9 conference in Southern California, HP's Leo Apotheker says there are no current plans to let other firms license his company's mobile OS, but HP might consider it for phone makers like HTC.

HP CEO Leo Apotheker
Asa Mathat/All Things Digital

During an interview at the D9 conference today, Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker dropped a mini-bombshell: HP would consider licensing its mobile operating system, WebOS, to other hardware makers.

In response to a question from the audience at the tech conference about potentially licensing the OS, Apotheker replied:

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. There are all kinds of other people who want to make whatever kind of hardware they make and would like to connect them to the Internet. We'll make it available to enterprises and to SMBs (small- and medium-size businesses). It will run on lots of HP devices.

A follow-up question asked specifically if HP would license it to HTC, the Taiwanese manufacturer of several popular Android smartphones, such as the Droid Incredible and Evo.

"It is certainly something we would entertain," Apotheker said.

WebOS was built by Palm for smartphones, but HP bought the company last year and pumped money and time into the OS. Now it's on the verge of being released on HP's first touch-screen tablet, the Touchpad, sometime this summer.

Apotheker has said since he took over the job last fall as HP's chief executive that he plans to put WebOS everywhere: phones, tablets, even printers and PCS. But competitors' devices? That's a new one.