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Hewlett-Packard Remakes WebOS as Gram to Revive Brand

Hewlett-Packard Co. is rebranding WebOS -- the mobile software acquired from Palm Inc. -- as an internal startup called Gram and recruiting staff for the venture, according to an internal company e-mail.

“We are no longer a consumer hardware brand, we are a different company with a focus on software, user experience, cloud, engineering and partnering,” Martin Risau, a senior vice president at Hewlett-Packard, wrote in a recent e-mail that was obtained by Bloomberg News.

Under Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard plans to run Gram as a wholly owned subsidiary, apart from the larger organization, to help spur innovation and revive demand for the kinds of products that once featured WebOS. The company discontinued smartphones and tablets running WebOS a year ago, under former CEO Leo Apotheker, and Whitman began offering the software code under an open-source license in December.

The company said at the time it would make WebOS available to device makers under a license that requires companies using it to contribute their changes back to the software product.

In his e-mail, Risau said Gram will include the operating system, Hewlett-Packard’s Enyo software development tools, and software for delivering programs via cloud computing over the Internet. The venture will operate in “stealth mode” to give it time to grow, he said.

Windows 8

Hewlett-Packard is attempting to position WebOS as an alternative to Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iOS and Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Android mobile operating systems, which will be difficult after Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) releases its Windows 8 touchscreen software later this year, said Josh Greenbaum an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Berkeley, California.

“As nice an operating system as it was at the time, if you want an alternative to iOS and Android, you’ll go to Windows 8,” Greenbaum said. WebOS, which features the ability for users to run multiple program simultaneously, has seen its base of customers and developers dwindle, he said.

The decision to rebrand WebOS was previously reported by WebOS Nation blog.

Hewlett-Packard’s shares fell 0.4 percent to $19.29 at the close in New York. The stock has declined 25 percent this year.

To contact the reporters on this story: Aaron Ricadela in San Francisco at aricadela@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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