Is Amazon Shopping for WebOS?

In the wake of Amazon’s launch of its Kindle Fire tablet on Wednesday, the company’s reportedly looking at buying the Palm webOS operating system from ailing HP, according to a report in Venturebeat.

Amazon spent quite a bit of time, effort and money tweaking Android for the Kindle Fire, which reportedly presold 95,000 units on its first day. So why would it think of getting a new operating system?

“One, Amazon can likely get webOS for a song; two, tweaking Android is costly; and three, and perhaps the most important reason to look at alternatives is that Android’s IP costs are high if users have to pay for all the patents involved or pay licensing fees to Microsoft,” Al Hilwa, a research program director at IDC, told TechNewsWorld.

Microsoft claims it holds patents on several technologies found in Android, and it’s managed to convince several makers of Android devices to pay for licensing deals. Goldman Sachs reportedly estimates the company’s getting $444 million a year from Android-related licensing fees.

“Amazon might not trust Google when it comes to Android, and may want to control its destiny,” Simon Khalaf, CEO of Flurry Analytics, told TechNewsWorld.

Further, Amazon might want to build up its own arms chest of mobile communications patents.

“I’m sure there are a few patents with webOS that might come in handy,” Khalaf suggested.

Amazon did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

The WebOS Saga Continues

There are reasonable grounds for thinking that Amazon might want to purchase webOS.

Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein, who was hired by HP when the latter purchased Palm last year, had previously stated that Amazon would make a good partner and could help expand the webOS ecosystem.

Further, HP, which has been considerably weakened by management issues of late, has stopped production of its webOS-based TouchPad tablet and Pre smartphones.

Having dropped $1.2 billion on acquiring Palm and invested considerable amounts of money, time and resources in webOS, HP may well be itching to recoup at least some of its losses.

Could Amazon Make webOS Work?

The problem with webOS has largely been in the realm of marketing and user base rather than quality.

Since its release in 2009, webOS has won acclaim from critics, but it’s been plagued by poor marketing and the far greater momentum Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating systems enjoyed due to their far larger markets.

Perhaps Amazon is indeed the company that could make webOS a viable player.

“webOS has a Web app model that’s attractive to many in the Web technologies ecosystem of developers, which is highly synergetic with what Amazon’s doing in the cloud,” IDC’s Hilwa pointed out.

“I think the Kindle Fire should be seen as a foot-in-the-door strategy,” Hilwa continued. “I’m certain that it will be followed by devices that feature a more complete set of capabilities that attract developers and apps for multiple scenarios such as GPS, camera, microphone and Bluetooth.”

Amazon offers features that are the best of what’s available from Google and Apple, Flurry’s Khalaf suggested.

“Developers don’t look for an operating system, they look for an ecosystem,” Khalaf said.

“Amazon now has a good device; it has good content; it has the best e-commerce platform, like Apple’s if not better; and it has people’s credit card numbers, so technically it should be all set.”

Further, webOS on Amazon would offer devs an alternative to iOS and Android.

“Apple is from Mars and Android is from Venus — they’re on the opposite ends of the spectrum on many things,” Estuardo Robles, vice president of marketing at AppGeyser, told TechNewsWorld.

“There’s a huge void in the middle, and Amazon has a shot if it aims for that sweet spot, if it plays its cards well,” Robles continued. “Amazon has the wide reach, the content, the brand, a lot of goodwill and great public acceptance.”

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