HP has officially announced it will contribute the webOS software to the open source community.
HP plans to continue to be active in the development and support of webOS. By combining the innovative webOS platform with the development power of the open source community, there is the opportunity to significantly improve applications and web services for the next generation of devices.
WebOS offers a number of benefits to the entire ecosystem of web applications. For developers, applications can be easily built using standard web technologies. In addition, its single integrated stack offers multiplatform portability. For device manufacturers, it provides a single web-centric platform to run across multiple devices. As a result, the end user benefits from a fast, immersive user experience.
According to HP CEO Meg Whitman, “webOS is the only platform designed from the ground up to be mobile, cloud-connected and scalable. By contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices.”
HP will make the underlying code of webOS available under an open source license. Developers, partners, HP engineers and other hardware manufacturers can deliver ongoing enhancements and new versions into the marketplace.
HP spent $1.2 billion to acquire Palm and its webOS resources in 2010. The investment has not really paid off for HP - at least not as they had envisioned. It took more than a year for the company to design and build the HP TouchPad tablet running webOS and this device was not a successful product until a brief run when the price was reduced to $99.
Then HP decided to leave the tablet market it had made a bid investment in and only recently entered.
With the operating system now to be open sourced, there may be some adoption from device makers looking to build new phones or tablets with it because there is no licensing fee to use it. The open source arrangement is similar to Google Android, but the challenge for webOS will be in the user base and the developer community. Android has become the most popular smartphone platform to date and developers are continuously writing apps for it, as well as Apple’s iOS devices.
WebOS does not have a strong following in the developer community. Is there room for a 3rd mobile operating system? I am not sure, the space is already very competitive and crowded. This feels like a "lets throw it out there and see if it sticks" move for HP. Time will tell.
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