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HP spins off WebOS as open source project

Dec 9, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 6 views

HP announced it is relaunching its Linux-based WebOS mobile operating system as an open source project. HP will continue to sponsor WebOS, but it will be available publicly under an open source license, soon to be joined by WebOS' Enyo application framework, says the company.

HP apparently found no takers for the WebOS operating system it acquired when it bought Palm last year. The computer giant announced today that it is relaunching the Linux-based mobile platform as a quasi-independent open source project.

In August, HP announced it would discontinue its current WebOS operations, including the TouchPad tablet (pictured), as well as the Pre 3 and Veer smartphones. The move was said to be due to sluggish sales, as well as a major realignment in corporate strategy that would involve selling off the company's PC business and transitioning to software and services. Under the new Meg Whitman regime, however, the company has now backed away from its plans to sell off its PC business.

HP now says it plans to "continue to be active in the development and support" of WebOS, but apparently at arm's length. By sponsoring an open source community for WebOS, "there is the opportunity to significantly improve applications and web services for the next generation of devices," according to an HP statement.

HP will release the WebOS under an unstated open source license. Until now, only the upper layers of the stack have been released to app developers. With the open source release, "developers, partners, HP engineers and other hardware manufacturers can deliver ongoing enhancements and new versions into the marketplace," says the company.

HP is seeking engagement from the open source community to help define the charter of the open source project, and recommends the following principles:

  • the goal of the project is to accelerate the open development of the WebOS platform
  • HP will be an active participant and investor in the project
  • good, transparent, and inclusive governance to avoid fragmentation
  • S=software will be provided as a pure open source project

HP also announced that in the "near future" it will also contribute WebOS' "Enyo" JavaScript application development framework to the community, "along with a plan for the remaining components of the user space." 

In September, a month after announcing plans for discontinuing its WebOS operations, the company began massive layoffs in the Palm/WebOS division.  By October, there were rumors that companies ranging from Samsung to Amazon were considering licensing WebOS.

One theory was that a major Android OEM vendor would buy WebOS as a hedge against Google's potential takeover of the Android platform via its upcoming acquisition of Motorola. Yet, Google has seemed to mollify its Android partners for now. Meanwhile, Samsung instead tapped into the fledgling Tizen project, which combines MeeGo and LiMo open source Linux components under an HTML5 umbrella, as a potential future OS backstop. Intel is also backing Tizen.

Earlier this year, HP was threatening to install WebOS as an alternative fast-boot OS on all of its Windows-based PCs, creating a potential conflict with Microsoft. That still remains a possibility, along with the potential for integrating WebOS in HP printers. It seems, however, that HP has no plans for re-entering the mobile device market anytime soon.

HP to offer refurbished TouchPads for $99 on Dec. 11

The open source relaunch should be welcome to the tens of thousands of consumers who bought the TouchPad once it was steeply discounted after HP announced plans to discontinue it. According to an IDC report, the now sold-out TouchPad represented 4.7 percent of worldwide tablet sales in the third quarter, partially fueled by a CyanogenMod Android port to the tablet.

There's likely to be more interest than ever in the new round of refurbished, 16GB and 32GB TouchPads due to go on sale next week, selling for $99 and $139 respectively. That's the same price BestBuy briefly offered this summer before they sold out.

As reported by TechCrunch and other sites earlier this week, HP announced it would sell TouchPads on its eBay store, starting Dec. 11 at 6:00 p.m. Central time. Sales will be limited to two SKUs per eBay member, and PayPal must be used, says HP.

All sales are final and the product only comes with a 90-day warranty. HP will also sell a $79 accessory bundle, which includes a case, charging dock and wireless keyboard.

Stated Meg Whitman, HP president and CEO, "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."


Developers and customers are invited to provide input and suggestions for the new WebOS project at the WebOS Developer blog.

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