WebOS to straddle consumer, enterprise worlds

HP will bank on integration of functionalities targeted at consumers and business users for its mobile operating system and build up ecosystem, exec says, adding developer interest is growing.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Hewlett-Packard plans to leverage its experience in the enterprise to push its mobile operating system, WebOS, into both the consumer and commercial markets, said a company exec.

Roland Ng, HP's Asia-Pacific and Japan director of WebOS category and telco management, pointed out there is now little distinction between an enterprise user and a consumer. "[Tech companies] put up silos of consumer or commercial," he said Tuesday in an interview with ZDNet Asia. "But I think everyone in essence, depending on the time of the day, is both a consumer and a commercial user."

To that end, HP's mobile operating system WebOS integrates both consumer and enterprise functionalities, said Ng. Users, for instance, are able to integrate their Microsoft Outlook account or Google Web-based Gmail accounts in the same e-mail system as well as enjoy mobile games alongside business software such as virtualization tools, he explained.

Ng added that HP is taking advantage of its legacy as an enterprise company to build cloud services for WebOS as well as integrate application and security so that the operating system "can become a viable platform for enterprise and consumers".

As testament to its enterprise readiness, the company's tablet computer, Touchpad, provides "right out of the box" enterprise-specific functionality such as support for Microsoft Exchange policies, several modes of VPN (virtual private network) as well as data at rest encryption, said Ng.

WebOS potential reach to entice developers
Faced with multiple competitors in the tablet game, Ng said the company's mission is "not about selling a number of devices but to build [the WebOS] ecosystem".

The company has plans to extend WebOS beyond tablets and smartphones to its entire range of devices including printer and computers, he noted.

While Ng admitted that the current installed base of WebOS is "quite small", he said the platform has the potential to reach 100 million new HP devices each year. This reach "cannot be ignored" by developers, he pointed out.

Currently, the company has developer outreach programs as well as tools to simplify the porting of applications to WebOS to entice developers to build for the platform, said Ng. He added that the creator of the popular mobile game Angry Birds took only two days to port the game to WebOS.

While Ng was not able to reveal the number of developers in the region for WebOS "as the number keeps growing", he said the company hopes to have 2,000 applications available for the Asia-Pacific market by the time the TouchPad goes on sale in the region.

HP announced today that the device will be available in four Asia-Pacific markets--Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand.

Serena Yong, general manager of HP Singapore's personal systems group, shared that the company is currently talking to local developers and engaging with government bodies to promote WebOS.

Touchpad to reach S'pore in August
According to Yong, who was also present at the interview, the HP Touchpad will be available in the city-state starting Aug. 12 and users can pre-order the device via the HP online store from Jul. 27.

The 9.7-inch tablet computer is available in 16GB or 32GB editions, retailing at S$699 (US$578.50) and S$799 (US$661.25), respectively, she added.

Yong was not able to say when HP's WebOS-powered smartphones will be available here.

Ng added the company is committed to the Asian market in view of the growing number of mobile users in the region. He pointed to the company's appointment of two executive vice presidents to focus on driving business in China and India, as indication of the company's commitment to grow in the region.

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