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HP: WebOS headed to Internet-connected printers

On earnings conference call Tuesday, CEO Mark Hurd talks form factors on which he expects to see the OS from newly-acquired Palm.

HP printers WebOS
HP says WebOS is headed for its Web-connected printers. Hewlett-Packard

When Hewlett-Packard announced its intentions to acquire Palm for $1.2 billion a few weeks ago, the company had big things in mind for Palm's WebOS. On Tuesday during the conference call for HP's second-quarter 2010 earnings, CEO Mark Hurd revealed some additional detail on the company's plans for the mobile OS.

HP will acquire Palm "in order to enhance our intellectual the connected-mobility space. We expect to leverage WebOS into a variety of form factors, including slates and Web-connected printers," Hurd said Tuesday.

"With a whole series of Web-connected printers, as they connect to the Web, they need an OS," he added.

As a touch-screen mobile operating system, it was easy to predict HP was targeting tablets with WebOS. HP's Todd Bradley later confirmed that, telling analysts that HP would "invest heavily" in WebOS, and use it on slate PCs, Netbooks, and phones. But printers? That's a new one.

Printers are a significant business for HP--in the most recent quarter the HP imaging and printing division made $6.4 billion in revenue, out of the total of over $30 billion. So it's not that crazy that they'd want to put its newest toy, WebOS, to work in that area.

But do printers need a mobile operating system? For HP, they do. The company has been pushing printers that are connected to the Web, like the PhotoSmart Premium TouchSmart Web printer. HP actually has an app store for these printers that allows users to download, for example, a Fandango or Snapfish app, and print movie tickets or photos directly from the printer over the Web.

Taking its current ambitions for its printer strategy, an operating system that could be synched with and access apps already on a smartphone and/or a tablet doesn't then seem that surprising.