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Samsung Electronics Would ‘Never’ Pursue Purchase of WebOS, Says CEO Choi

By Jun Yang
September 02, 2011 3:21 AM EDT

Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s second-largest maker of mobile phones, rejected speculation it may buy Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ)’s WebOS software used in handsets and tablet computers.

The South Korean company will “never” pursue such a deal, Chief Executive Officer Choi Gee Sung said in Berlin, where he’s attending the IFA consumer electronics fair. The comment, made to reporters in response to questions about analysts’ speculation of a possible purchase, was confirmed by Nam Ki Yung, a spokesman for Samsung in Seoul.

“It’s not right that acquiring an operating system is becoming a fashion,” Choi said. Samsung, which has its own mobile operating system called Bada, is working to boost its software capability “harder than people outside think.”

Industry researchers including IDC had said Samsung may be interested in acquiring WebOS to boost software assets, after Hewlett-Packard announced a decision last month to stop making products using the operating system. HTC Corp. (2498) and Facebook Inc. may also be interested in buying the software, according to an Aug. 22 note from research firm Ovum Ltd.

Both HTC and Facebook declined to comment in e-mailed responses to queries. Clare Wareing, a Singapore-based public relations official at Hewlett-Packard, wasn’t immediately available to comment.

Hewlett-Packard’s plan to stop using WebOS in its products is part of a shakeup that includes a possible spinoff of its personal-computer division. The announcement fueled speculation that Samsung may seek an acquisition of the PC business, which the South Korean electronics maker also denied last month.

Licensing Deals

Hewlett-Packard gained WebOS in last year’s $1.2 billion purchase of Palm Inc. The company plans to produce a final run of its TouchPad tablet computer after a price cut to $99 from $499 led to a surge in demand.

Hewlett-Packard is still considering partnerships and licensing deals with manufacturers that may use the WebOS software in their devices, Senior Vice President Stephen DeWitt said last month. Samsung Electronics held talks to use WebOS in its smartphones, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

The U.S. company probably won’t find a partner because the software offers little benefit compared with rival operating systems, Ovum said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jun Yang in Seoul at jyang180@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net

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