Amazon to acquire webOS?
Reports that the retailer is in advanced talks with HP to gain its own Linux platform, for its new mobile cloud strategy
Published: 3 October, 2011
Hewlett-Packard has been rumored to be trying to sell its webOS platform since it decided to kill the device lines of its former Palm unit. Speculation focused on hardware vendors like Samsung, LG and ZTE, but the most probable candidate always seemed to be Amazon. The retailer has been creating an increasingly broad-ranging web software platform and even while webOS still remained central to HP's cloud strategy, the older firm had hinted at a major strategic alliance with Amazon.
According to VentureBeat, negotiations between the two firms are at an advanced stage, though there may be other interested bidders. There would be clear reasons for Amazon's interest. It recently unveiled its Kindle Fire tablet and has been expanding its platform, which embraces cloud content, multiple apps and media stores, and its own browser, Silk. This browser is the heart of Amazon's new user interface, which currently runs on top of a modified Android, but a fully controlled Linux OS - especially a slimline one well-suited to cloud/browser behavior, like webOS - would make sense for the retailer, freeing it from its somewhat fractious reliance on cloud competitor Google.
HP, meanwhile, has been growing closer to Amazon itself, and Jon Rubinstein, formerly head of Palm, became a board member at the retailer last year. Rubinstein is currently head of product innovation in HP's Personal Systems Group, which the firm is considering spinning off or selling. In an interview in July, before the cancellation of the Pre and TouchPad devices, he said: "I would say Amazon would certainly make a great partner, because they have a lot of characteristics that would help them expand the webOS ecosystem."
Rubinstein was said to be hostile to former CEO Leo Apotheker's bid to license webOS to huge numbers of partners, making it central to the 'internet of things'. He favored making just one or two partnerships with companies that could add significant value, which would clearly include Amazon. Internal divisions about the role of webOS were one reason for the muddled thinking around its strategy under Apotheker.
Former webOS division chief Stephen DeWitt also hinted at closer ties with Amazon during the summer. He said: "There's no company on the planet that has more intimacy with their end customers, or knowledge of their end customers. We respect that a lot, and we've learned from that. And our partnerships in other areas have taught us a great deal … as a metaphor, that's the kind of sophisticated partner that makes sense."