WebOS could be an important player in the long run as an open-source mobile OS because Android could become closed source with Google's purchase of Motorola Mobility, Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman said Wednesday.
It may take up to four years for the complete impact of webOS to be felt, but HP will remain patient, Whitman said during a speech at the HP Global Partner conference in Las Vegas.
"The industry needs another OS," Whitman said, contending that Android might not remain open source.
Apple's iOS dominates the mobile market, but it is also proprietary, creating a void and an opportunity for webOS to flourish as an open-source OS, Whitman said.
WebOS was originally developed by Palm for phones and tablets. HP bought Palm in 2010 but late last year announced it will not make devices that use the software. That left questions hanging about its fate, but HP said it would release webOS to the open-source community.
Whitman said there has been a lot of uncertainty flowing around webOS, and she needed to bring clarity to the situation. Saying that she is "excited" about webOS, Whitman pledged that the company will continue to contribute to its development.
Google announced its intentions in August to buy Motorola Mobility for US$12.5 billion in a deal that was approved by U.S. and European regulators this week. Google has said it intends that Android will remain an open-source OS.
Apart from Whitman's comments, there has been little talk about webOS at the conference, with more focus on enterprise offerings such as the new Gen8 servers and Autonomy software, which was acquired by HP last year.
HP did say that it would offer new mobile software for remote management, but only for Android and iOS. The company did not announce similar tools for webOS.
HP rode through instability last year after the company in November 2010 had hired former SAP head Leo Apotheker as CEO, only to fire him in September of last year. The company also decided to sell or spin off its PC unit, only to reverse course and retain the unit.
The instability created a lot of chaos, but now the company wants to bring stability to its consumer and enterprise operations.
"When I came in I thought the most important thing I could do is remove noise from the system and create stability," Whitman said.
She felt that the PC and enterprise units are better together than apart, as that helps create more value for customers and partners.
Her speech was short, and she instead preferred to open up the session for questions and answers from the event attendees. She asked customers not to hesitate when asking questions.
"You have to remember I ran for political office, nothing is going to hurt my feelings," Whitman said.