HP sells webOS to LG for smart TVs

LG will acquire the mobile operating system's source code and engineering team

Hewlett-Packard has sold some of the rights to its webOS mobile operating system to LG Electronics for use in smart TVs made by the South Korean electronics firm.

LG has agreed to acquire the source code, webOS engineering team and other assets from HP, in a deal announced Monday. LG will also license HP patents related to webOS and cloud technology, the companies said.

Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

HP acquired the mobile operating system, along with device maker Palm, in February 2010. HP used the OS on its short-lived TouchPad device, which debuted in mid-2011 then disappeared weeks later.

HP announced a new tablet, the US$169 Slate 7, on Sunday. The Slate 7 will run the Android operating system.

LG will lead the Open webOS and Enyo open-source projects as part of the deal, the company said. HP will retain ownership of all of Palm's cloud computing assets, including source code, talent, infrastructure and contracts.

HP said it will also continue to support Palm users.

LG will use the technology to expand the Web capabilities of its smart TVs, said Sam Chang, LG vice president and general manager of innovation and Smart TV, in an interview.

LG bought the webOS assets in part for the engineering team, which includes user experience engineers, he said. The webOS engineers who remained at HP -- the companies aren't saying how many there are -- are to join LG's Silicon Valley labs.

But LG was also after the webOS software itself, which was built from the ground up for the Web and has strong multitasking capabilities, Chang said. LG also likes the webOS "card" interface design, he said, which makes it easy to flip through apps on a screen.

As for how, exactly, LG plans to use webOS, Chang isn't saying. "We're looking forward to demonstrating products very quickly, but I'm not in the habit of announcing things to my competitors in advance," he said.

LG will continue to offer TVs based on Google's TV software, Chang said. "Google TV delivers a great experience for the consumer looking for a very search-based, lean forward experience," he said.

LG's Silicon Valley labs report into LG's corporate technology organization, Chang said, implying webOS could find its way into other LG products. But in the near term it's focused on TVs, he said.

The deal will allow for continued development of the webOS operating system, and will drive forward LG's efforts to bring Internet services to consumer electronics, LG said.

"This groundbreaking development demonstrates LG's commitment to investing in talent and research in Silicon Valley, one of the world's innovation hotbeds," Skott Ahn, LG's president and CTO, said in a statement. "It creates a new path for LG to offer an intuitive user experience and Internet services across a range of consumer electronics devices."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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