LG buys webOS from HP for smart TV

South Korean electronics giant LG has acquired the source code, documentation, engineers, and websites of the Palm-developed webOS from HP. LG says that it plans to use the technology in future smart TV devices rather than the smartphones and tablets for which webOS was originally designed.

The move by LG to buy the webOS assets comes as something of a surprise. The code of the software platform was released into open source by HP as Open webOS last year and wasn’t widely expected to find any original equipment manufacturer support, despite having demonstrated some novel thinking in devices such as the Palm Pre and HP TouchPad.

However, LG has clearly recognized a need to invest in greater software platform and user interface capabilities. This comes at a time when device manufacturers are increasingly looking to differentiate through software-based innovation in user experience.

LG’s stated intention to use webOS in TVs makes sense for the company, which is enjoying significant momentum in this emerging device category. However, we can’t discount the possibility that LG could yet return webOS to its smartphone roots.

The platform’s heavily HTML5-oriented application framework is well-suited to the emerging zeitgeist for web technology in mobile devices that was further energized this week by the commercial debut of Mozilla’s Firefox OS. A focus on HTML5-based apps and services will allow for significant innovation at the level of the underlying user experience, with far less compromise in terms of application support than is the case with left-of-center native programming paradigms.