Apotheker: Shielding webOS from bureaucracy, considering licensing | webOS Nation

Apotheker: Shielding webOS from bureaucracy, considering licensing

by Derek Kessler Wed, 01 Jun 2011 3:59 pm EDT

In a wide-ranging talk at D9 with The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg, HP CEO Leo Apotheker couldn’t resist elaborating on his plans for the company’s webOS strategy. While we didn’t get any concrete details, like when the HP TouchPad will be available to the public, we did get a glimpse into where Apotheker sees HP and webOS in the future.

In the first follow-up to Apotheker’s “launching within weeks” comment, the HP CEO admitted that he regrets that they weren’t able to get the Veer, TouchPad, and Pre3 to market more quickly. He also said that he’s tried to shield webOS and the Palm Global Business Unit from the HP bureaucracy, even though he doesn’t believe that there is much of one. It’s nice to see the new CEO caring enough about webOS to apparently shelter it from influences from other parts of HP.

Speaking of those other parts of HP, Apotheker sees HP undergoing a revolution over the next few years, saying that “You’ll see a completely different HP emerge over the next three to four years.” And that new HP, Apotheker wants it to be more like Apple, with a cohesive ecosystem of products all tied together by webOS. It’s talk we’ve heard before, and it’s talk we’re eager to see come to fruition.

But HP’s not looking to take Apple head-on. As Apotheker said, “It’s about becoming a third alternative” to Apple and Android. Even then, it’s not Apple or Android that worries Apotheker. He knows the companies that are out there. He said, “I actually worry most about the people I don't yet know about. Those up-and-comers are what keep me awake at night.” Smart words, Mr. Apotheker. Surely, Microsoft, RIM, and Nokia didn’t anticipate the rise of Google and Apple. It’s the little guys with great ideas you’ve got to look out for – and in the case of HP, buy them.

What was the biggest surprise, however, was Apotheker’s words about being open to licensing webOS to third parties. For the most part, he seemed more interested in products that would integrate into an HP-led ecosystem, offering that “appliance makers could use it to connect up normal home devices,” and that “webOS will be more than just a system that runs inside an HP product.”

That wasn’t too much of a bombshell. HP partnering up with third party manufacturers to put webOS in unexpected places makes sense. What caught us off guard was Apotheker’s response to a question from one D9 attendee regarding the possibility of licensing webOS to a competitor, say HTC:

“It is certainly something we would entertain.”