HP throws down challenge to rivals with webOS software

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — Hewlett-Packard Co. will soon include its webOS system for smartphones on all its PCs, upcoming tablet computers and higher-end printers, putting it in competition with operating software from Apple, Google and Microsoft.

HP’s intentions, laid out at a prominent technology conference Wednesday, represented a particular challenge to longtime partner Microsoft Corp., whose Windows operating system runs on all of the 65 million PCs that HP shipped last year.

CEO Leo Apotheker said the company should have put webOS further into the marketplace sooner. HP acquired webOS when it bought struggling cellphone maker Palm Inc. last year.

At first, webOS will sit on top of Windows in personal computers, Apotheker said. He said webOS could run on its own and that it will be licensed to other hardware makers over time. But he said Windows will continue to have a presence for years to come. “I don’t believe that Windows will fade into irrelevance,” he said.

Apotheker’s statements came at the D: All Things Digital conference, an annual event hosted by News Corp.’s Dow Jones & Co., which also owns The Wall Street Journal. It has become a well-attended forum for executives to talk about strategy on the southern California coastline.

Nokia Corp. CEO Stephen Elop also waded into the operating system battle — further explaining the cellphone maker’s decision in February to ditch its Symbian software in favor of Microsoft’s Windows Phone. He said it was to help Windows compete in the format war with Apple Inc.’s iOS and Google Inc.’s Android and help Nokia stand out from competitors.

Such operating systems could one day make transitions between mobile devices, PCs and other connected gadgets seamless.

“It’s no longer a battle of devices. It is a war of ecosystems,” Elop said.

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