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Summary:

As a platform, webOS has impressed nearly every reviewer who’s touched it, but it faces a few hurdles. One of those hurdles, the device’s hardware choices, could be cleared easily if the licensing talks HP CEO Leo Apotheker says are underway bear fruit.

galaxy-s-II-webOS

As a platform, webOS has impressed nearly every reviewer who’s touched it, but it faces a few hurdles. One of those hurdles, the device’s hardware choices, could be cleared if the licensing talks that Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker says are underway bear fruit.

Bloomberg reports Apotheker said HP is “talking to a number of companies,” many of which “have expressed interest,” but declined to name any names. Three people familiar with the negotiations say Samsung is among those involved in the talks, according to Bloomberg. Samsung declined to confirm whether it was involved in any discussions.

Samsung has done extremely well using licensed Android software to power its mobile devices, including the Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets. It has more recently built devices running Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 7 operating system and it also runs its own Bada mobile OS on certain phones. Adding webOS would add a fourth mobile operating system for Samsung, which could be a daunting undertaking.

But a partnership with HP could make a lot of sense for the Korean smartphone maker. A deal with HP might allow Samsung greater control over OS personalization options, one of the sources who spoke to Bloomberg suggests. It would also allow Samsung to hedge its bets if Android cools or WP7 fails to take off. And webOS is, as mentioned, regarded highly by those who’ve used it.

Of course, Samsung licensing webOS doesn’t address the lack of quality third-party apps available for the platform, which is probably its greatest weakness. But a big name partnership with a company that has shipped as many phones as Samsung has is sure to attract more developer interest, even if Samsung only initially puts webOS on a small number of devices, like it has done with Bada. HP doesn’t necessarily have the mobile hardware reputation to attract smartphone buyers, but Samsung does, and it has managed to do so with an OS that isn’t nearly as slick and refined as webOS.

Just slapping webOS on Samsung hardware isn’t a guaranteed home run, but if it does happen, and it brings developers to the platform, it stands a good chance of offering RIM and Microsoft a solid race for the smartphone bronze.

  1. Samsung making webOS devices could help the ecosystem. If they make phones then that would open up markets that webOS currently doesn’t have representation in. If they create a new form factor (touchscreen only) that might add distinction. They could also make webOS tablets. The more people HP can get onboard and the better.

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  2. The third major platform is Bada.

    That is, if you don’t count the legacy platforms that are falling, such as Symbian and BlackBerry. Bada already outsells Microsoft’s Windows Phone.

    But this thing about customisation doesn’t make sense. Why would Samsung be able to customise webOS more than Android? Nokia’s Elop made a similar non-sensical comment about going with Windows Phone so he could customise it. Android and MeeGo are the most customisable OSes out there, due to their open-source nature. Especiall MeeGo.

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  3. It seems to me the OS of phones (mini PC’s) are only a part of the mobile web, today many OS’s are good. But good OS’s stuck in hardware as an end product is the past, forward is connected to massive cloud services with seemless tie ins to the PC. Who has a massive SAS to offer, who’s cloud platform has learned common office tools on a massive scale to offer on a seemless cloud ecosystem. Who has the components to build a Full social, voice&video communication built into a massive PC OS that people are familiar with?

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  4. A bit early to tell. Samsung’s support through their devices cannot boost WebOS alone. Remember Bada? HP has a lot to do in order to make WebOS a major player, and it will be interesting to see how they try to pull it off. The platform in itself has a lot of potential and it would be sad if it went alongside Meego to developer and consumer limbo.

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