HTC CEO Cher Wang admitted to the Economic Observer of China that the company best known for its Android products is looking at buying a mobile operating system. HTC has been constructing a distinctive product image in a crowded field with its Sense user interface, and as Wang points out "can use any OS we want. We are able to make things different from our rivals on the second or third layer of a platform".
Wang made it clear that HTC will not make a decision on impulse, rather will carefully consider its options before making such a big jump. There are not a lot of options for an OS that HTC can purchase. The obvious choice would be webOS, the platform that HP has indicated it is willing to deal given its decision to get out of the webOS hardware business. HTC has the chops to make some serious hardware based on webOS, and could leave the litigious Android scene behind if it owned the platform.
Buying webOS from HP would give HTC some serious patents due to the Palm legacy of webOS, which could help the company in its current legal tussle with Apple. On the surface there doesn't appear to be a downside to the purchase of webOS, although as always the devil is in the details.
Another OS option for an HTC purchase would be nearly orphaned MeeGo. This platform was jointly developed by Nokia and Intel, but the former's alliance with Microsoft's Windows Phone leaves MeeGo all dressed up and no phones to go to.
HTC may only be the first OEM currently using Android to be looking at other options with Google's purchase of Motorola Mobility expected to close this year. It is not clear how the Android developer can avoid competing with partners using the OS while owning a major player in the space. That deal likely pushed HTC to start looking at other options than Android.