By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. — LG Electronics recently made a deal to gain the rights to Hewlett-Packard’s open-source webOS platform for use on next-generation smart TVs, among other devices.
The move is expected to bring an improved user experience and more compelling second-screen interactivity to owners of next-generation LG smart TVs and mobile devices, Skott Ahn, LG Electronics president and chief technology officer, told TWICE.
LG said that it is acquiring the rights to webOS from HP, initially for use in its smart television products (that will likely not appear until 2014) before expanding to a broad range of connected devices and systems.
The platform will join LG’s current portfolio of smart-TV approaches, including use of the Android system in a line of Google TVs and LG’s own proprietary smart-TV platform in a separate line of connected TV devices.
Ahn said: “We would like to make webOS our key software platform in the future, starting from smart TV in the near future.” He added that a second objective is to “invest in the talent and research capability of the program [and] to incorporate this new capability into our software and user experience.”
LG will obtain the source code for webOS, related documentation, engineering talent and related webOS websites, LG said.
The company will also receive HP licenses for use with its webOS products, and patents HP obtained from Palm.
The financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
webOS started out as a new platform for Palm mobile devices and was eventually rescued by HP, only to be left in limbo after HP dropped its mobile products last year.
Ahn said LG will continue to use Android as its primary platform for most mobile devices and will continue to use a multiple platform strategy for smart TV, which will possibly include a new webOS platform approach and/or a mixture or approaches.
“We would like to expand in the long run to WebOS into other devices, like digital signage products, telematics, smart appliances and some other display products,” Ahn told TWICE.
As for whether LG plans to continue to juggle multiple smart electronics platforms or settle on just one, Ahn said: “It’s a trending environment. While there are so many solutions and so many demands in the market we will keep those kinds of strategies.”
He pointed out that Google TV, which LG offers, will be a “complementary system” to webOS, and Android mobile devices will work seamlessly with webOS-enabled TVs.
Indeed, market fragmentation stands as one of the largest bottlenecks to content developers releasing content on various platforms, whether it is Google TV, LG-developed products or something else.
Ahn pointed out that it is LG’s intention to keep the open-source strategy that is part of WebOS today.
“Through the Smart TV Alliance, in which we are working with five other major TV makers, [LG’s] transition to the web is going to help accelerate the market,” said Sam Chang, LG innovation and development general manager. “And I think that is really the major theme here. We understand there are different customers looking for different experiences from the Google TV QWERTY-keyboard approach to the more lean-back user experience as well, and we will address both markets.”
Through the deal, HP will “retain the patents. We grant a license to LG, and we absolutely view this as an opportunity based on the innovation that LG will deliver, and we have the opportunity to integrate that back into HP devices, should that need arise,” explained Bill Veghte, HP COO. HP also retains “the Cloud services team, which delivered the application catalog and the device updating mechanism,” he added.
LG will establish the LG Silicon Valley Lab, which will include the San Francisco and Sunnyvale, Calif., R&D sites joining LG’s R&D facilities in Chicago and San Jose, Calif.
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