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After months of rumors, HP officially announced it would be using the mobile operating system it acquired along with smartphone specialist Palm, webOS. The acquisition, completed this week for approximately $1.2 billion, puts HP in place to challenge operating systems such as Google Android or Microsoft’s Windows 7 mobile operating system. The decision could be seen as a blow to Microsoft and Windows 7, which was shown running on HP’s tablet, called the Slate, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January.

HP highlighted Palm’s “unparalleled” operating system, which it said would enhance the company’s ability to participate more aggressively in the smartphone and connected mobile devices market. HP also said the platform would allow the company to take advantage of features such as true multitasking and up-to-date information sharing across applications.

“Palm’s innovative operating system provides an ideal platform to expand HP’s mobility strategy and create a unique HP experience spanning multiple mobile connected devices,” said HP’s executive vice president of the personal systems group, Todd Bradley. “Advances in mobility are offering significant opportunities, and HP intends to be a leader in this market.”

Jon Rubinstein, chairman and CEO of Palm, (and co-developer of Apple’s now-iconic iPod) called the decision a “vote of confidence” in Palm’s technological leadership and praised HP’s tradition of innovation. “HP’s scale and global operating resources make it the perfect partner to rapidly accelerate the growth of webOS,” he said.

As the success of Apple’s iPad tablet (3 million sold in 80 days) has reinvigorated the stagnant market for tablet devices, major technology companies like HP are hoping to cash in on the trend with their own devices, such as the Slate. While rumors have suggested HP has delayed the release of the device (October 2010 is the latest unofficial launch date) or even dropped the Slate completely, the company has been keeping reasonably quiet on that front, and even issued an oblique “tweet” about the device on April 27.