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HP To Make webOS Open To All

David Gilbert by

HP To Make webOS Open To All

Paying $1.2 billion for a piece of software that you then give away for free 18 months later does not seem to make much financial sense, but Hewlett Packard has been left with little option than to make webOS open source.

Meg Whitman, the new CEO of the company, tried to put a brave face on the decision on Friday, when she said: "By contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices."

But essentially the company has been left with no choice but to open it up to software developers following Whitman’s predecessor, Leo Apotheker’s decision to ditch the mobile devices which webOS was running on – namely the Veer and Pre smartphones and the TouchPad tablet.

A statement from the company said it would make the underlying code behind webOS available under an open source licence. It said third-party developers, partners and HP's own engineers could then "deliver ongoing enhancements and new versions into the marketplace."

While the goal of this project may be to “accelerate the open development of the webOS platform” making it open source may not necessarily mean it will be any more successful.

Without the support of developers producing apps for the platform, it will struggle to become a viable option against giants such as Android and iOS, and will even struggle to challenge smaller players like Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry OS.

Do you think that making webOS open source will mean the platform has a future? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Source: HP

Go to comments


December 12, 2011, 3:54 pm

Sensible article in a sea of others claiming that open sourcing webOS is somehow magic sprinkle dust that solves all it's past difficulties. Without major resources behind it - and a hardware partner - it simply won't go very far. How many people are going to buy a device pre-loaded with Android, iOS or WP7 simply to replace it with webOS? Not many, I believe... Someone big has to take in on board. There's also the question of which open source license HP will use. May seem an academic question but it'll make all the difference between a company taking it on or not - and if we'll see bits of it on other platforms.


December 13, 2011, 3:03 pm

They did have an alternative choice, which is to cut their losses and bin the project entirely. Then the technology behind WebOS would then be effectively lost. Whatever the future prospects, this is a fantastic decision by HP. Mozilla open sourced its code base back in 1998, and was first derided for doing so. The source was code, by many accounts, was not in a great state. But the project stuck with it, and no-one can now deny the huge effect Mozilla has had on the web in the last ten years. I hope WebOS, with a real community around it, can be equally successful.

Martin Daler

December 13, 2011, 5:37 pm

We all have a device on which it is trivially easy to make use of Firefox. But where is the equivalent for webOS? Other than a handful of dual-boot geeks, how is webOS supposed to ever see the light of day on a device.


December 13, 2011, 9:46 pm

Martin, I see you point, but I believe the benefits from opening up a codebase such as WebOS are wider than just the products WebOS has produced until now. HP previously talked about using WebOS on printers and computers, so this may still be possible. Moreover, parts of the code, depending on the license HP decide on, may go towards improving other free software projects (e.g. drivers in the Linux kernel). There are many possibilities, not just dual-booting your smartphone or tablet which I agree sounds unlikely. Other hardware companies may even use WebOS in their future products, depending on how it gets on. From what I have heard, WebOS suffered from poor hardware choices - the software itself has always been the highlight, so I am hopeful.

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