(Reuters) - Hewlett Packard Co has decided to open its webOS mobile operating system to developers and companies, potentially taking on Google Inc's free Android platform that is popular with handset makers.

HP, which acquired webOS in a $1.2 billion purchase of Palm in 2010, had been trying to figure out how to recoup its investment after a failed foray into the smartphone and tablet market.

HP Chief Executive Meg Whitman said the company looked at a number of options for webOS, including a sale and shut down of the division.

The technology giant will make webOS available under an open source licensing agreement, but it has still not hashed out the terms of the licensing deal it plans to offer.

There are a number of open source projects that can be used as examples for deciding the structure of licensing, including Android and browser Mozilla.

The company plans to solicit ideas from developers before deciding on the licensing terms, Whitman said.