The interest in a non-Windows OS could spell a return to an earlier strategy.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Hewlett-Packard(:HPQ) has made a big investment in a computer operating system other than Microsoft(:MSFT) Windows. This morning, the nonprofit Linux Foundation announced that HP has upped its stake in the organization and is now a platinum member.

With their payment of $500,000, HP, previously a Gold member, buys a seat on the foundation's governing board. Other Platinum members include Fujitsu, IBM(:IBM), Intel(:INTC), NEC, Oracle(:ORCL), Qualcomm(:QCOM) and Samsung. Platinum membership also means HP will be directly involved in "advancing Linux-based initiatives, workgroups, labs, events and more."

At a minimum, HP will have more of a say on how the Linux operating system will continue to mature as well as how it interacts with their hardware product lines.

They will also be able to share some of what they've learned concerning webOS and possibly finding a way to make something of it. WebOS is the smartphone/tablet operating system they obtained when they bought the remains of Palm back in April, 2010. Less than 3 months later they released their first webOS, ARM(:ARMH)-based tablet.

Within two weeks, their webOS project was canceled. At the time, HP said it would rather focus on higher-margin, "strategic priorities" like cloud services, enterprise, commercial and government markets.

The announcement is also interesting given HP's current position concerning the just-released Windows 8 operating systems. HP announced they'll be making tablets based on the full Windows 8 OS for business and enterprise users. But, their name is noticeably missing from the list of major manufacturers making lower-cost, ARM-based Windows RT devices for consumers.

HP's Linux Foundation investment could ultimately mean we'll see another webOS-based device or two in the future.

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York

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