Amazon.com (NAS: AMZN) is reportedly in serious talks with Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) to acquire the webOS mobile operating system, which HP absorbed with its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm in April 2010 and scrapped last month.
Citing a well-placed source at HP, VentureBeat reports HP is seeking to divest webOS as quickly as possible, and while several potential buyers have emerged, Amazon is closest to finalizing a deal. Former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein sits on the Amazon board -- in an interview with This Is My Next conducted in July 2011, Rubenstein said, "We'd like a partner that would allow us to expand the webOS ecosystem ... There's a variety of different sets of a characteristics to qualify as a good partner. I would say Amazon would certainly make a great partner because they have a lot of characteristics that would help them expand the webOS ecosystem. As to whether there's been discussions or not ... that's obviously not something I'm going to comment about."
Reached by VentureBeat for comment, HP said it doesn't comment on rumors or speculation. Amazon did not return a request for comment.
Earlier this week, Amazon.com formally unveiled the Kindle Fire, its long-awaited tablet device designed to rival Apple's (NAS: AAPL) iPad for digital media supremacy. The Kindle Fire offers consumers a single, portable point of access to initiatives including the Kindle e-book catalog, Amazon Appstore for Android, Amazon Instant Video and Amazon MP3. The Kindle Fire runs a heavily customized version of Google's (NAS: GOOG) Android operating system -- dealing for webOS would enable Amazon to build a mobile platform to its exact specifications, further differentiating its future tablet efforts from rival Android-based products. Android is also the subject of intense patent rights questions, giving Amazon another reason to shift its mobile device efforts in another direction.
HP discontinued its webOS initiatives following disappointing sales of its own TouchPad tablet. In announcing the move, HP said it "will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward," adding executives will look into selling the webOS platform or licensing it.
Earlier this month, the rumor mill buzzed with speculation Samsung Electronics might purchase webOS, but Samsung CEO Choi Gee Sung said his company would "never" buy the platform, stating, "It's not right that acquiring an operating system is becoming a fashion." Subsequent reports indicate Samsung plans to open its Bada mobile operating system to other manufacturers and software developers in 2012, a measure to accelerate growth of the smartphone platform while also distancing the company from its own reliance on the Android OS.
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