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LG pushes WebOS into digital signage

Feb 12, 2014  |  Eric Brown
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LG is launching a new line of “all-in-one” digital signage systems that run the Linux-based WebOS, including new HTML middleware for app development.

A month after unveiling its first WebOS-based device at CES, the LG Smart TV, the Korean consumer electronics giant has nudged the old Palm- and HP-owned mobile Linux operating system into digital signage. The announcement was made as part of a preview of LG’s 2014 signage products this week at the Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas.

LG mentioned no product names, and offered no photos, but said that it will introduce “a number of all-in-one hardware and software” digital signage solutions in 2014 that run WebOS. The systems are touted as being easier to install than traditional signage systems, in which a separate display is connected to a PC or mini-PC, typically running Windows or Linux, or in the case of LG’s current EZSIGN TV signage systems, Windows or Mac.



LG Smart TV with WebOS

LG’s AiO signage systems add a new HTML5-based middleware layer above the lightweight WebOS that “enables easy-to-build web-based apps across multiple platforms, including Android, iOS and Windows,” says the company. The systems will ship with a software development kit (SDK) to enable customization.

LG announced several other signage systems, none of which appear to run WebOS. These include a 55-inch 55LV75A Direct LED Display claimed to offer the narrowest video wall bezel in the industry: a thin 3.5mm.

WebOS is one of several mobile Linux OSes finding its way into devices beyond smartphones and tablets. At CES, Panasonic announced it would use Firefox OS in an upcoming smart TV, and Via Technologies said it would apply Firefox OS to new embedded devices. Samsung, meanwhile, announced a Tizen-based smart refrigerator, as well as an automotive IVI system and a NX300M camera based on the lightweight Linux platform.

 
Five years of WebOS

It’s been a year since LG acquired WebOS from HP, including the WebOS development team, source code, documentation, and a license to associated patents. At the time, the company said it would bake the mobile OS into smart TVs, and also mentioned smart appliances and signage as future possibilities. To the dismay of WebOS aficionados looking for an update to their old Palm Pre smartphones and HP TouchPad tablets, mobile devices were not included in LG’s plans.


Palm Pre

Palm announced its Pre smartphone in January 2009, along with its proprietary new WebOS platform. By the end of the year, it was considered a potential competitor with the then dominant iPhone, as well as BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and the fast-growing Android.

WebOS did better than the other alternative mobile Linux platform at the time, the LiMo Foundation spec, which now forms a good chunk of Tizen. However, it never gained more than about 1 percent smartphone market share.

HP bought Palm in April, 2010, and although it came out with an HP TouchPad tablet, as well as updated Palm Pre 2 and Palm Pixi Plus phones, the platform never took off. HP briefly floated the possibility of using WebOS as an alternative fast-boot install for its Windows-based PCs.

In Dec. 2011, after discontinuing development of new WebOS-based hardware platforms, HP spun off WebOS as an open source project, although it still kept its own WebOS team working on the associated Enyo development platform and related cloud software. The mostly independent Open WebOS project released version 1.0 in Sept. 2012, but to the disappointment of many, it ran only on an Android-based Nexus phone, not on Pre phones or other WebOS devices. Five months later, LG bought WebOS, and the Open WebOS project fizzled.

Although WebOS never attracted enough app developers, among other deficits, its multitasking performance was widely seen as being better than other mobile platforms at the time, including Android and iOS. In fact, only last month LG touted the platform’s multitasking capability when it announced its smart TV. The WebOS UI was also highly regarded. As Palm was in the process of being acquired in 2010, Google hired away the project’s lead designer, Matias Duarte, who went on to greatly improve the interface of Android 2.3 (“Gingerbread”).

 
Further information

More information on LG’s new signage solutions may be found in its announcement. Customers attending Digital Signage Expo 2014 (LG Booth 500) this week in Las Vegas may be able to glean some more details about the WebOS signage systems.
 

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