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Is Amazon interested in buying WebOS from Hewlett-Packard?

September 30, 2011 |  6:41 pm

Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com CEO, holding a Kindle Fire tablet

Amazon.com's Kindle Fire is a jump into the growing tablet market and a clear challenge to Apple's blockbuster ability to integrate hardware and software so seamlessly.

But what will Amazon's post-Fire moves look like as it seeks to build a major business in tablets, something only Apple has so far been able to pull off?

According to both VentureBeat and the New York Times site Deal Book, Amazon is considering buying the WebOS mobile operating system from the struggling Hewlett-Packard in a move to nab an OS of its own and to gain some mobile tech patents as well. Amazon officials were unavailable for comment on the rumors Friday.

Unlike Apple, Amazon doesn't own the software that will run on its tablet. Android is owned by Google, though Google shares its Android with the world at no cost and the version of Android that will run on the Fire is a build unique to Amazon.

But while Google doesn't charge for Android, others do. Microsoft, for example, is collecting royalties from Samsung for its use of Android and has agreements with other Android users, such as HTC, that pay Microsoft and/or call for shared patent portfolio licenses.

Google, known for its weak patent portfolio, is attempting to buy Motorola Mobility in both a move to help shore up its IP and get into the hardware business in a limited way. 

HP bought Palm in April 2010 for $1.2 billion, mainly for WebOS, but in August the company gave up on making hardware for the operating system.

As pointed out by VentureBeat, HP has been eyeing Amazon as a possible partner for WebOS as far back as July, Jon Rubinstein, who was then leading HP's WebOS division, said in an interview with the website ThisIsMyNext. This was due to Amazon's potential to match WebOS with an ecosystem of content -- books, music, TV shows and movies.

What do you think? Could Amazon save WebOS, bring it back to life on hardware of its own? Should the Seattle online retail giant buy WebOS and dump the software and hold on to the patents? Or would it be best for Amazon to stick with Android and risk potential lawsuits or royalty payments to competitors such as Microsoft? Sound off in the comments.

RELATED:

HP reportedly cutting jobs at WebOS division

Amazon Kindle Fire tablet: $199, 7-inch screen, ships Nov. 15

HP CEO Meg Whitman gets 1.9 million stock options, ex-CEO Apotheker wins too 

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos holds the new Kindle Fire tablet Sept. 28 in New York City. Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

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