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HP: WebOS licenses in the works

CEO Leo Apotheker tells Bloomberg the company is actively discussing putting its mobile OS on other companies' hardware.

Jon Rubinstein introduces the HP TouchPad WebOS-based tablet.
Jon Rubinstein introduces the HP TouchPad WebOS-based tablet in February. James Martin/CNET

On the eve of the launch of its TouchPad, Hewlett-Packard is signaling that it's ready to stir things up in the mobile-OS business.

Today, CEO Leo Apotheker told Bloomberg that HP has had discussions about licensing WebOS.

"We are talking to a number of companies," Apotheker said. "I can share with you that a number of companies have expressed interest. We are continuing our conversations."

Bloomberg says it's heard from unidentified sources that Samsung is one of those companies, but a Samsung spokesman denied that. HP did not elaborate on who potential partners could be.

HP has revamped the WebOS operating system it bought with Palm almost exactly a year ago and made it ready for tablets. Apotheker's comments today expand on earlier statements that he would entertain the idea of licensing WebOS to other players in the mobile-devices business.

Apotheker said earlier this month that "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."

HP has recently sounded a lot more like Apple, saying that as a hardware maker it's important for the company to own and develop its own operating system for its new mobile phones and the upcoming TouchPad tablet. But by offering its proprietary software to other phone and tablet makers, HP seems like it's trying to make inroads into Android's territory.

But it doesn't sound like just any company can come calling for a licensing opportunity for HP's mobile OS. WebOS chief Jon Rubinstein told the blog This Is My Next. "If someone wants to really invest, and potentially help develop WebOS, we're interested in talking to them."