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June 2, 2011 1:39 am

HP seeks bigger role in software

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Hewlett-Packard pledged to become a much bigger force in software, as the group said it would look beyond its traditional close partners Microsoft and Intel, and become more of an integrated supplier like Apple.

The move to stay abreast of rapid changes in technology comes as the largest maker by revenue of personal computers, servers and printers grapples with pressure from investors concerned about recent reductions in forecast revenue.

HP also said on Wednesday that it would sell its videoconferencing business for an undisclosed sum to Polycom, which is dedicated to video services.

As part of the sale, Polycom said it would make its service work with HP’s WebOS operating system, which the computer company suggested would be an even more critical piece of its strategy than previously understood.

Léo Apotheker, HP chief executive, said that the operating system would run on more than just HP’s own hardware, being licensed to other companies such as appliance makers and smartphone manufacturers.

“We are starting to reach out to a number of other companies in this industry,” Mr Apotheker told an investor conference held by Dow Jones south of Los Angeles.

WebOS was designed at smartphone maker Palm, which HP acquired before Mr Apotheker joined it seven months ago. While critically well received, the software failed to attract enough programs from outside developers or reach sufficient consumers before Palm ran short of cash.

HP is bringing out smartphones with a new version of the operating system, and it has promised a TouchPad tablet will ship this summer. Versions will also be included on all of HP’s personal computers, on top of Windows, and on printers selling for more than $100.

Mr Apotheker said that WebOS would come alongside Windows “initially” but added that although Windows is on every PC sold by HP now, that would not continue.

“HP will be much bigger in software” where the profit margins are higher, Mr Apotheker said.

He took a swing at Intel as well, saying that Arm-designed chips could move up from mobile devices into PCs and even servers.

In the short term, he said a major goal would be to make WebOS the third-most prevalent mobile operating system, after Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.

That credibility, and the plan to focus on delivering services over the cloud simultaneously to WebOS computers and mobile gadgets, should attract developers.

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