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HP wants to expand reach of WebOS

Jon Rubinstein, senior vice president and general manager of HP Palm, introduces the HP Palm tablet, TouchPad, during the WebOS event at Fort Mason's Herbst Pavilion on February 9, 2011.

Hewlett-Packard is looking to expand the use of WebOS software among developers and consumers as it gears up to launch its tablet in a booming market dominated by Apple Inc.’s iPad.

“We would partner with people who can quickly broaden the ecosystem and quickly utilize the strength of WebOS,” said Todd Bradley, who runs HP’s personal systems group. WebOS – the basis for HP’s 9.7-inch TouchPad tablet that will go on sale next month for $499.99 – is widely viewed as a strong platform but HP faces an uphill battle to gain traction in the mobile market.

Much of a mobile device’s success is based on a robust ecosystem of apps, and HP will need to court software makers to build for WebOS.

Apple boasts about 500,000 apps for its mobile iOS platform, while Google Inc.’s Android claims about 300,000.

HP chief executive Leo Apotheker said earlier this month that he sees the WebOS software running devices besides HP’s own and is open to licensing the operating system.

HP bought Palm last summer for $1.2 billion, hoping to combine its WebOS software with a plethora of devices from smartphones to printers, gambling that there is room for yet another mobile software platform. Apotheker, who took over at the world’s No. 1 computer maker in September, is under pressure to turn around HP. In a major ongoing management shakeup last week, HP put new focus on growing markets by appointing Bradley to lead the charge in expanding the company’s share in China.

Bradley said the Chinese market presents huge opportunities for HP, including increasing the sales of all of its products.

Citing the example of personal computers, Bradley said he sees the overall market size for personal computers increasing in China.

“The PC market in United States is 98 per cent penetrated, the PC market in China is 20 per cent penetrated,” he said. “The opportunities to grow broadly are huge there.”

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