LG has announced that it will license its webOS TV software to other TV manufacturers. As a result, webOS is in direct competition with other platforms operated by TV brands such as alternatives from Roku, Amazon and Google.
According to LG, “more than 20 TV manufacturers” have signed up to the webOS partnership and mention RCA, Ayonz and Konka as examples. They’ll ship the operating system in their TVs, giving them access to voice control functions, LG’s AI algorithms, and a fairly robust library of pre-built streaming apps like Netflix, YouTube or Disney +.
For smaller manufacturers, this is more cost-effective than developing these functions on their own or lobbying companies like Netflix or Disney to support new platforms.
At the annual Consumer Electronics Show in January this year, LG announced webOS 6, a major user interface overhaul that uses a design language more similar to most other TV operating systems. However, webOS licensees will, at least for the time being, be limited to an earlier version of webOS that has the old user interface.
In addition to the license fees, LG can leverage this larger installation base to benefit from a more robust advertising network and more extensive user data collection. The company will also stop operating LG Channels content on more televisions. In addition, LG has greater ambitions for webOS than just TVs. This move supports the company’s efforts to make webOS more ubiquitous as the software expands to automobiles, appliances, and other products.
Users can resist advertising and data collection, but there is an advantage for them: a larger installation base for webOS will likely result in more frequently updated, higher quality apps from content companies.
LG had released an open source version of webOS back in 2018, and Samsung announced plans to make its Tizen TV operating system available for licensing by other TV manufacturers as early as 2019. A year and a half later, however, we haven’t heard anything more concrete about the latter.