Qualcomm should buy WebOS, analyst says

As maker of chips that run HP's WebOS, Qualcomm could offer attractive bundle to smartphone, tablet makers

Hewlett-Packard's WebOS is not dead yet, and that could be a good thing for chip maker Qualcomm, according to an industry analyst.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, today speculated that Qualcomm is the best potential buyer of WebOS because the company builds the only processors that run HP's mobile operating system.

"I believe the most logical candidate and the one who could make it successful is Qualcomm," Gold wrote in a report released Tuesday.

Gold said in an email to Computerworld that his speculation is not based on any inside information received from Qualcomm.

Qualcomm did not respond to a request to comment on Gold's report.

Gold said that as owner of WebOS, Qualcomm could bundle the OS with its chips to offer smartphone and tablet manufacturers a "complete package" that would include a central processor, a graphics processor, wireless chips and the WebOS software.

"Qualcomm offers the necessary tools and design capabilities to create a complete solution. It could build out an entire ecosystem," Gold said.

Qualcomm's current mobile OS offering, Brew, which is used primarily in lower-end feature phones, has been "getting quite stale," Gold added.

A Qualcomm-WebOS combination could "make the low cost tablet market come alive," especially in emerging markets not yet dominated by iPad and Android-based devices, Gold said.

Gold noted that Qualcomm already has committed to supporting Android and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7, but added that WebOS would be a "viable second platform" for manufacturers.

Analysts have noted that WebOS could be bought by several players, including Google and Apple. The latter firms would likely be interested in gaining ownership of HP's WebOS patents, anlaysts have said.

Other potential buyers, such as Samsung or Amazon, would have a more difficult time than Qualcomm in turning WebOS from an "also-ran into a competitive threat," Gold said.

HP last week pulled the plug on WebOS smartphones and tablets last week amid poor sales. HP said in a statement last week that will "continue to explore option to optimize the value of WebOS software going forward."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Read more about mobile and wireless in Computerworld's Mobile and Wireless Topic Center.

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