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HP planning webOS netbooks?

Eschewing this month’s CES show in Las Vegas, technology giant Hewlett-Packard announced it would be holding its own webOS event on February 9—and while all speculation centered on likely tablet devices running Palm’s well-regarded webOS, training materials available from HP suggest the company is looking to bring webOS to netbooks as well.

According to  PreCentral, materials posed to a webOS carrier training site strongly imply that HP intends to bring not only webOS smartphones and tablets to market, but also netbooks. The materials offer no clue about capabilities, price points, or any dates of availability; however, the materials do focus on smartphones rather than tablets (which HP is calling “slates”) or netbooks, noting “tomorrow will come soon enough.”

HP has been clear that it plans to expand on webOS and its device ecosystem since acquiring Palm in April of 2010 for $1.2 billion. HP has rolled out the Palm Pre 2 (along with webOS 2.0), but otherwise there have been few fruits of the acquisition to date—although HP has been clear that it intends to bring webOS tablet devices to market in 2011.

Palm’s webOS operating system has generally been well-regarded by industry watchers; however, the ongoing juggernaut of Apple’s iOS platform and the substantial momentum in the Android ecosystem may leave precious little room for another major mobile platform like webOS: for all the systems’ elegance and capabilities, the success of a mobile operating system these days depends in large part on support from third party developers. While HP has a major presence in the enterprise market, it’s not clear that the company can re-instantiate and support a major consumer-oriented mobile platform. And let’s not forget HP won’t be all alone out there: in addition to iOS and Android, webOS will have to compete with RIM’s BlackBerry platform, as well as Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform and contenders like Intel and Nokia’s MeeGo.

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