By Jon Fortt, CNBC Tech Correspondent
In its bid to take on Apple and Google in smartphones, Hewlett-Packard won't use Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 software. Instead, HP ( HPQ) Executive Vice President Todd Bradley told me that the PC giant will exclusively use its webOS software, which it got when it closed its Palm acquisition three weeks ago. Not that Microsoft ( MSFT) is completely striking out with HP -- Bradley also said definitively for the first time that HP will build a tablet computer based on Microsoft's Windows 7. Bradley's comments are some of the clearest signals HP has given about its plans for the high-growth smartphone market. When I first got the call from HP a couple of months ago about its plans to acquire Palm, Chief Strategy Officer Shane Robison made a point of reminding me that HP is Microsoft's biggest customer, and that HP would continue to have a good relationship with Redmond. In his early comments about webOS, HP CEO Mark Hurd talked more about using it in printers than phones. But it seems that HP is betting the farm on webOS in phones after all. In my conversations with HP executives, they sound determined to use HP's heft to make Palm into a top-tier smartphone platform on par with Apple's ( APPL) iOS and Google's ( GOOG) Android. To do that, HP will have to convince wireless carriers to distribute and market webOS handsets, and get application developers who are flocking to iPhone and Android to spend some time building apps for webOS as well. It would have been easy for HP to try to please everyone and build Microsoft-based smartphones for businesses and webOS smartphones for consumers--but HP seems to have realized that strategy would have doomed webOS to second-tier status. If HP wouldn't even fully commit to its own OS, why should anyone else?
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