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HP won't license WebOS, says exec

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HP will not license WebOS to rival smartphone and tablet vendors, the head of the company's PCs and gadgets division has said.

Speaking at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference yesterday, Todd Bradley, executive VP of HP’s Personal Systems Group, emphatically said the company will not make the operating system, acquired when HP bought Palm, available to anyone else.

We're not surprised. Palm's decision in the 1990s to spin off its operating system operation as PalmSource - it became PalmOne - muddied the then-strong Palm brand and arguably hindered both companies' development.

The move failed to increase the number of Palm OS licensees by any significant margin, either - or stop existing licensees deserting Palm for other platforms, primarily Windows Mobile.

Sony, Palm's then biggest-name Palm OS licencee, didn't hang around for long.

Another Palm partner, Handspring, formed by ex-Palm staff and founders, eventually merged back into the firm, bringing with it the Treo smartphone line, which arguably saved the PDA-focused Palm from irrelevance.

But back to HP. Even if it did offer WebOS to others, what would it get out of such deals? Nothing, if it gave the OS away for free, which is what it would have to do to compete with Android. Better, then, to keep WebOS in house and establish an Apple-style walled garden HP can make some money out of.

And Bradley knows. He became PalmOne's CEO in October 2003, promoted from head of the company's hardware business, right at the moment PalmSource was separated out. He left the company in May 2005. ®

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