HP sells WebOS to LG for smart TVs

The iconic WebOS started as a smartphone OS but was all but killed after HP used it in a failed tablet

Hewlett-Packard has sold some of the rights to its WebOS mobile operating system to LG Electronics for use in Internet-connected "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 today. LG will also license HP patents related to WebOS and cloud technology, the companies said. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed, bit both said there would be no material effect on their finances.

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HP acquired the WebOS 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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.