South Korean electronics giant LG plans to debut its first smart TV based on the webOS operating system next week, industry insiders claim.
Citing an unnamed source, the Wall Street Journal reports that the webOS-powered boob tube will be unveiled at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, due to run from January 7 through 10.
LG bought the rights to the webOS platform in February from HP, which had struggled to find a use for the technology since landing it as part of its 2010 acquisition of Palm for $1.2bn.
Palm developed the OS for use in smartphones and fondleslabs, but the devices it brought to market met with lukewarm reception among consumers and app developers alike. HP's follow-on TouchPad tablet barely got a chance to prove itself before then-CEO Léo Apotheker binned the entire product line.
For a while, HP pretended webOS still had a bold future at the company, going as far as to claim the technology would ship as a UI for every HP-branded PC and printer. But those plans never came to fruition, and it soon became clear that HP's webOS efforts were essentially stillborn.
Enter LG. The Korean chaebol announced in February that it had spent an undisclosed sum to acquire not just the source code, documentation, and intellectual property rights to webOS, but also the team of HP engineers that had been working on the platform.
The catch was that, contrary to assumptions, LG said it wasn't interested in webOS for its smartphones, which so far have run Google's Android OS. Instead, it planned to use the technology to revamp the UI on its line of smart TVs.
"The open and transparent webOS technology offers a compelling user experience that, when combined with our own technology, will pave the way for future innovations using the latest Web technologies," LG CTO Skott Ahn said in a statement at the time.
Here at Vulture Annex in San Francisco, we can't help but think the move could be a step in the right direction. Smart TV is still a relatively young market, and we've yet to see a UI for one of these devices that we'd describe as user-friendly.
According to the WSJ's sources, LG plans to retain webOS's "cards" UI approach, which was one of the more popular aspects of Palm's latter-day smartphones.
Then again, maybe LG should worry less about the "user experience" of its devices and do more about fixing the hidden, invasive aspects of its smart TVs. Recent reports have revealed that LG TVs regularly "phone home" to report on user viewing habits – a fact that LG has reportedly marketed to advertising partners.
LG has promised to disable some of these "features" on its existing TVs with firmware updates. What data it plans to collect from its webOS-based sets, however, remains to be seen. ®