WebOS, the operating system that powers the HP Pre 3 and HP TouchPad, could end up on non-HP devices. That's according to HP's Jon Rubinstein, speaking at Qualcomm's Uplinq conference in San Diego yesterday.
HP is willing to partner with "one or two special companies" that can add something special to the webOS family of gadgets, said Rubinstein.
But don't expect to see webOS on phones from competitors like Nokia or HTC. Rubinstein was quick to add that HP isn't interested in general licensing, and wouldn't get into bed with companies that are already involved with other mobile operating systems. That means companies that make Android or Windows Phone 7 mobiles won't be serving up webOS phones.
That's a pity, because webOS is one of our favourite mobile operating systems. It handles multitasking and notifications beautifully, and it offers an appealingly clean design.
But previous webOS phones, such as the Palm Pre, didn't make much of a splash in the UK. Palm's acquisition by HP doesn't look likely to improve the profile of upcoming webOS phones, like the Veer and Pre 3, either.
Some of the jazziest features of the TouchPad, HP's upcoming webOS tablet, require use of a webOS phone. For example, you can tap the phone against the tablet to instantly transfer a Web page from one device's browser to another. But, with few webOS phones in British pockets, the TouchPad's appeal is limited on our shores, too.
With the major phone manufacturers all out of the picture, a special relationship could lead to webOS coming to gadgets other than phones and tablets. HP is already planning to power its printers with the operating system.
Rubinstein also hinted that HP would be producing its TouchPad tablet in various sizes in the future.
"Different screen sizes suit different people in different situations," he said. "There's no 'one ring to rule them all'."
Rubinstein also touched on webOS' relative lack of apps, compared to the iPhone, iPad and Android devices.
"Today, we are the underdog," said Rubinstein, adding that the webOS app store currently has about 7,000 apps. But he also claimed that his OS is the easiest to develop for, since it's based on the WebKit browser and uses familiar Web programming languages, like HTML.
HP computers will soon acquire a client that can run webOS apps on the desktop. HP hopes that getting webOS apps onto the 50 million PCs that the company sells annually will tempt developers to work with the operating system.
Are you tempted by the TouchPad? Take a look at our hands-on preview, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or on our Facebook wall.