HP Turns WebOS Open Source, Could Offer Manufacturers Alternative to Android
HP today announced that it will be open sourcing its webOS mobile operating system acquired when it purchased Palm last year. The fate of webOS has been unclear since the company's August announcement that it would be spinning off its PC division and exiting the tablet and smartphone markets. HP later reversed course on its planned PC unit spinoff, but has continued to weigh its options for webOS amid the discontinuation of its mobile hardware effort.
“webOS is the only platform designed from the ground up to be mobile, cloud-connected and scalable,” said Meg Whitman, HP president and chief executive officer. “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.
As ZDNet notes, the open sourcing of webOS adds a competitor for Android, offering hardware manufacturers wary of relying too much on Google's open source platform an option to diversify their own slates of products.
Android is the king of mobile as well as open source operating systems. However, carriers and smartphone makers want to diversify away from Android as well as Apple’s iOS. WebOS could be a nice diversification tool that could splinter Android support. The other reality: The WebOS UI is better than Android’s, but Google’s platform has the apps.
The availability of webOS for use by numerous manufacturers could also threaten Microsoft and its efforts to make Windows Phone competitive by partnering with Nokia.
Update: In an interview with The Verge, HP CEO Meg Whitman reveals that the company is planning to use webOS on future tablet products, indicating the company is not abandoning mobile hardware entirely. No timeframe for such products has been announced.
Will HP be creating any new webOS hardware?
Meg: The answer to that is yes but what I can't tell you is whether that will be in 2012 or not. But we will use webOS in new hardware, but it's just going to take us a little longer to reorganize the team in a quite different direction than we've been taking it in the past.
Are we talking printers? Or tablets and phones?
Meg: In the near term what I would imagine — and this could change, in full disclosure — is I would think tablets, I do not believe we will be in the smartphone business again.