HP to Make webOS Open Source, Potentially New Hardware

Google, which commands the mobile market with its open-source Android operating system, now has a similar competitor lurking on the horizon: HP and its now not-so-doomed webOS.

After a brief meeting on Friday afternoon, HP president and CEO Meg Whitman revealed the company's plans to contribute its webOS mobile operating system to the open source community. She said that HP will continue to play an active role in the development and financial support of the software while also contributing ENYO, the application framework for webOS, in the near future.

"webOS is the only platform designed from the ground up to be mobile, cloud-connected and scalable," she said in a press release. "By contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices."

According to the company, HP will make the underlying webOS code available under an open source license. Developers, partners, HP engineers and other hardware manufacturers will then be able to introduce ongoing enhancements and new versions on future consumer devices. The company also said it will engage with the open source community to help define the project by following a set of operating principles, as follows:

* 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
* Software will be provided as a pure open source project

HP is currently inviting developers and potential customers to provide input and suggestions regarding the open-source webOS project by heading to the Palm Developers blog here.

Update: The Verge asked HP's CEO Meg Whitman about new webOS-based hardware. Her answer: "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."

HP's talked about putting webOS in laptops and printers, but so far we've only really seen the OS shine in tablets and smartphones. HP's answer continued, "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."

More bits from the FAQ:

What does it mean to make webOS “open source”?

Broadly speaking, “open source” refers to a form of software licensing wherein the source code is available for use and improvement by anyone choosing to download it.

Developers typically share their enhancements with the rest of the community resulting in a product refined through community collaboration.

An example of popular open source software is the Firefox web browser.

What does this mean for current owners of webOS devices, like the Touchpad?

Users of webOS devices will continue to receive software improvements and updates in the future.

HP expects that making webOS open source will accelerate the development of the webOS platform and application ecosystem, which will benefit current and future users.

HP plans to remain active in the development and support of webOS.

Will HP begin making webOS devices again?

As webOS gains traction as an open source alternative in the marketplace, you could see webOS on several different types of devices by any number of vendors.

We will explore the viability of putting webOS on devices, just as we do for other leading operating systems.

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  • amk-aka-Phantom
    Okay. Can I hope that NOW maybe they'll finally STFU about webOS?


    Though, seriously, I think it's a good decision. I got an Android phone to mess around with (a friend got one and called me to "set it up") and I must say that Android is much more boring when you get to thoroughly mess with one rather than when you check it out in the store. I miss good old Symbian - maybe webOS will change things a bit? I think I'm a bit too grown up for any device with a screen smaller that 7'' to be "exciting", but I could use a few improvements in a mobile OS...

    ... inb4 Android users thumb me down: don't worry, I'm not with Apple :D Android is still fun - I'm probably just doing it wrong :)
  • Anonymous
    Still waiting for a decent smartphone to make webOS shine.
  • voodoobunny
    Doesn't this mean that whoever made the Touchpad for HP could start stamping out Touchpad clones as soon as the open-source software was released?