HP rumoured to be investigating webOS sale

Hewlett Packard's desire to attract developers to the webOS platform even as it ceases production of tablets and smartphones based on the software may have just received an explanation: the company's hoping to sell.

While the Personal Systems Group - the division of HP responsible for consumer-grade laptops and desktops - has received a reprieve courtesy of freshly-crowned CEO Meg Whitman, the webOS division hasn't had as much luck.

It's true that Todd Bradley, the man leading HP's PSG, has denounced rumours that the software platform - originally a product of Palm before the PDA pioneer was plundered by HP under then-chief Apotheker's leadership - is due to be thrown out, but he didn't go so far as to declare it to be central to HP's new enterprise-centric approach to business.

Now, the Reuters news agency is claiming that HP is looking to sell webOS to the highest bidder as a way of offsetting its recent losses. Although the company has neither confirmed nor denied the rumours, several suitors have been suggested from Samsung - which is betting heavily on Google's Android platform, but which also has a finger in the homebrew world with its own-brand bada OS - to Oracle.

If true, the news is likely to be welcomed by fans of the platform: while webOS once formed the heart of HP's strategy, with the company mulling including it as a secondary operating system on every PC and laptop it sold, the platform has now been all-but abandoned.

A sale to a third party could inject some life into webOS, but comes with a risk that a buyer - especially one such as Oracle, which concentrates on enterprise-grade software - would ignore its original consumer focus in favour of a business-oriented approach.

Should HP sell, it will still find itself out of pocket: after paying $1.2 billion for Palm back in 2010, it has killed off the hardware division and is expected to get no more than a few hundred million dollars for webOS.

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