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WebOS’ Enyo 2.0 dev platform goes cross-platform, adopts Apache license

Jan 25, 2012 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

HP announced a roadmap for its Linux-based WebOS operating system, which will be released under an open source Apache 2.0 license in September. HP also released an Apache-licensed version 2.0 of its Enyo Javascript development framework for WebOS, adding cross-platform app development across Android, iOS, and desktop browsers.

HP announced in early December that it would be spinning off its proprietary Linux-based WebOS mobile operating system as an open source project. Now it has followed up with a detailed roadmap of WebOS-related code releases over the coming months — culminating with a WebOS open source beta release in August and a final due in September.

The company also announced the immediate availability of a new version 2.0 of its Enyo object-oriented Javascript application development framework. For the first time, this features cross-platform app development across mobile OSes including Android and iOS.

Both Enyo 2.0 and WebOS will be offered under Apache License, Version 2.0, the same license used by Android. The decision would appear to isolate WebOS somewhat from most open source projects, which use various forms of GPL licensing, and may suggest HP has further ambitions for WebOS as part of its corporate strategy (see farther below).

Roadmap includes broadened WebKit, more standard Linux kernel

Over the first half of the year, HP will make individual elements of WebOS source code available on a path toward releasing the full code base to the open source community in September. Code releases will include a new Qt-based WebKit browser engine, which will support not only HTML5, but also Silverlight and Flash through the use of plugins, according to the company.

HP will also release a new kernel based on the Linux Foundation's standard kernel, which could draw additional support for the operating system. Future changes also include enhanced integration with JavaScript through register callbacks, custom multi-process architecture for security, load balancing, and recovery availability, says HP. In addition, LevelDB will replace the existing WebOS database.

WebOS roadmap details are said to include:

  • January — Enyo 2.0 and Enyo source code released under Apache 2.0
  • February — project governance model unveiled; release of Qt WebKit extensions, JavaScript core, and UI Enyo widgets
  • March — releasing WebOS Linux standard kernel, graphics extensions EGL, LevelDB, and USB extensions
  • April — releasing Ares 2.0, Enyo 2.1, node services
  • July — releasing system manager ("Luna"), system manager bus, core applications, Enyo 2.2
  • August — releasing build release model, open WebOS Beta
  • September — releasing open WebOS 1.0

 Enyo 2.0

The Enyo object-oriented Javascript application development framework did not appear in WebOS until after the arrival of WebOS 2.0 in Oct. 2010, and only as an alternative to the standard Mojo framework. However, as of WebOS 3.0 — which ran on the now-discontinued TouchPad tablet (pictured) — Enyo was fully in charge.

The Enyo 1.0 final stable release was claimed by HP to offer faster app launching, more flexible porting between multiple screen sizes, improved HTML5 support, better event handling, and an easier object-oriented development framework. In addition, it provided hardware acceleration, supported browser-based development, and made it easier to maintain and reuse code, according to the company.

By making both Enyo 2.0 and 1.0 available under open source Apache licensing, HP finally has a shot at attracting a wider audience of developers to the platform. (If Palm or HP had done this back when WebOS was still seen as a contender in the mobile realm, it may have had a better chance to compete– lack of apps and developers was always a fatal flaw.)

In addition to going open source, the new Enyo 2.0 is primarily notable for going cross-platform, supporting "write once, run anywhere" app development, according to HP. Apps will run not only on WebOS, but also on Android and iOS devices and via desktop browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, or Safari. Where Enyo 1.0 required WebKit, Enyo 2.0 will support any platform with a modern web runtime, HP claims. 

In addition, because Enyo 1.0 has been open sourced as well, it means that developers who wrote Enyo apps for the TouchPad can now much more easily port them to Android or iOS, says HP.

According to HP, apps heading for mobile OSes such as Android or iOS will need to be wrapped in a native "shell." HP recommends using PhoneGap, which it notes also provides access to various native capabilities on each platform.

Enyo's lightweight core — now just 13KB gzipped — has not changed much in version 2.0 aside from providing cross-platform support, says HP. In addition, the release still lacks UI widgets, although the first widgets are due in February. The core will support a wide variety of libraries and add-ons, says the company.

Apache move follows Google's Android lead

According to HP, the company chose Apache for open sourcing WebOS and Enyo because "it provides a legal framework that balances open innovation and a dependable user experience, which is consistent with HP's vision for WebOS."

This would appear to suggest that under its new guidance from CEO Meg Whitman, HP may have more of a strategic interest in WebOS than it has let on. The new Enyo support for desktop browsers may even suggest it's not done with a variation on its earlier dream of making WebOS a web-oriented alternative to Windows on its PCs.

The more widely used GNU open source licenses, such as GNU Public License (GPL), LGPL, and MPL, include "copyleft" clauses that require that developers who modify and reuse code give it back to the community. Apache has much less stringent restrictions. This would enable developers — such as HP for example — to add their own extensions to WebOS without necessarily sharing them with the community at large.

By not requiring the code feedback loop, Apache is seen by some as being somewhat less open than the GNU licenses. Some analysts, such as VisionMobile, disagree, however. Last year, the research firm released a report evaluating the relative openness of eight open source projects, and weighted permissive licenses such as Apache higher in openness than it did more restrictive copyleft licenses like the Linux kernel's GPL, presumably because it left the choice of submission up to the developer.

Nevertheless, VisionMobile rated the Apache-licensed Android in last place for openness, primarily due to governance issues.

If nothing else, choosing Apache would appear to distance WebOS somewhat from the mainstream of the embedded open source community — aside from Android, of course.

When Oracle chose to spin off to Apache last June — switching from an LGPLv3+/MPL license to an Apache license in the process — some in the open source community lamented the move because it was seen as isolating OpenOffice. The difference in licensing compared to the forked, LGPLv3+/MPL-licensed LibreOffice meant that LibreOffice innovations would not be able to migrate back to OpenOffice, according to critics. Of course, by that time, LibreOffice had already stolen much of OpenOffice's productivity software market share anyway.

Licensing differences between Android's Apache license and the GPL-licensed Linux core header files incorporated within Android led some legal analysts to speculate last year that Google's Android might be in violation of GPL due to its practice of stripping the files of certain comments and code. As it turned out, however, this appears to have been a false alarm, according to Linux Torvalds and others.

HP's meandering path to open sourcing WebOS

HP acquired WebOS when it bought Palm in 2009 for $1.2 billion. However, by August of last year, the company announced it would discontinue its current WebOS operations, including the TouchPad tablet, 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, and appears to be rethinking its dismissal of WebOS as well. When it announced its open source plans last month, HP said it would "continue to be active in the development and support" of WebOS. 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 at the time.

Stated Bill Veghte, executive vice president and chief strategy officer, HP, "This is a decisive step toward meeting our goal of accelerating the platform's development and ensuring that its benefits will be delivered to the entire ecosystem of web applications."


The Enyo 2.0 core is now available for free download under an Apache 2.0 license. The new open source version of WebOS will be available in September, says HP. More information may be found in this WebOS and Enyo 2.0 blog announcement, as well as this Enyo 2.0 web page.

Eric Brown can be reached at [email protected].

This article was originally published on and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.

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