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aaron

December 9th 2011 1:40 pm

HP is making webOS open-source

Just moments ago at an all-hands meeting, HP CEO Meg Whitman announced that the company will be open-sourcing webOS. Not just the Enyo app development framework — the actual underlying operating system!

www.hp.com­/hpinfo­/newsroom­/press­/2011­/111209xa.htm...

No hardware partners to announce right now, but this means any interested smartphone or tablet manufacturer can pick up webOS and run with it. I think this is a bold move and a great outcome; it would have been a real shame if they killed the project entirely. webOS has always been very hacker-friendly and developer-friendly, and I personally am looking forward to taking a peek at the code behind it all.

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11 replies
Mitchellmckenna

Amazing news, probably the best thing that could have happened to the OS. One benefit that came out of this whole HP debacle is that thanks to the fire sale a lot of people now own a webOS device, and experienced the great features it has to offer. Hoping it breaths new life into it's, at one time, rapidly growing community of enthusiasts and hackers.

It will be interesting to see if any major hardware manufacturer picks up the OS from the get-go. Even if no one does, it will definitely be popular in the modder community (buy an android phone, flash it with webOS). And it sounds like HP will be getting back into the tablet business in 2013 as well: techcrunch.com­/2011­/12­/09­/hps­-whitman­-well­-make­-we...

I just hope they can open source it quickly, open sourcing a what was before close-sourced OS is not a quick process. This move to open-source can be a big benefit to HP if they can pull it off well; you get a lot of positive perception of a company's brand when you open-source something because you giving away something of value for free (you don't see many google haters out there do you?).

One of my friends asked me "With android adding so many iconic webos-like features such as app cards and swipe-to-close, why not just back android?". I enjoy these new ICS features (android fan here), but I've played around with ice cream sandwich and it doesn't feel much like webOS; for example I can't use swipe-to-close from the app - i need to go to the app drawer, and it's not really "closing" the app. As well, building apps for webOS is very different, one of the benefits of which is they're built on very common web-technologies such JS and CSS, so they can be very lightweight and fast. There is room for both of these very different open-source phone/tablet OS's.
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Dpmt

That is awesome. Having good UI open sourced will make other OSs better. I bet Canonical takes advantage of this for Ubuntu and Mozila for their Firefox OS thing. I also expect WebOS app support to be added to certain projects.
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cass

My question is will webOS become an enthusiast OS or a more mainstream offering that can compete with iOS or Android? RIM is struggling to stay relevant and Microsoft is dropping a ton of money to penetrate the market. What can webOS do?
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keppy

I'm just glad the code will be out there and available. I have no delusions about the unlikely outcome of a manufacturer picking this up, but it is at least possible now.

But, since I'm already a fringe OS user (Ubuntu on my desktop machines, and webOS on my phone), at least now I can look forward to being able to continue using and tweaking webOS, and maybe even using it on some cutting edge hardware.

The first outcome I'd imagine seeing are ports to newer phones. Porting webOS 2.X may be challenging, since it's not as resolution independent as 3.X, but with them also releasing Enyo (which is much more resolution independent), maybe it won't be quite so difficult.

Here's hoping.
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andrewkalies

I completely agree. I would have died inside if they killed it. Making it open source will allow for any manufacturer to make a product with it, so I can't wait to see what comes of this. HP, I hate you a little bit less now.
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roberto

Even if it does not get released in a future phone, having access to the code may allow developers from Android and others to incorporate some of Web OS's features.
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martymankins

As a long time Palm user and recent Palm Pre user, a current TouchPad owner AND a new user of a Pre 3 on AT&T, I am pleased to hear this news.

I was hoping Meg and others would make a sound decision like this. Now to see what open source will bring for the future of webOS.

For HP this was a $1.2 billion decision and while they have taken their financial hit on this one, the user and development communities feel good about this promising and stable
mobile OS and it's future.
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groovechicken

When it was still too early to tell whether Android or WebOS would become the #2 OS, some of my Linux friends were trying to convince me to get a Pre, stating that they had looked closely at the OS and app development and that it was amazing. One of them claimed it could easily be compiled to run on x86. He said he had already compiled real Linux programs for it and was running them. Now that it is going to be open source, you better believe there will be a healthy niche of people like these guys who will do some cool stuff with it. I can't wait to see it running on all kinds of hardware. Who knows, maybe it could become the new mainstream Linux. Either way, I might run it on all kinds of gadgets, but not my phone. I can't trust my livelihood to an eternal beta. Cyanogen proved that to me.
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beau

Any hardware maker is going to have to be pretty desperate to make a WebOS device. It's dead, aside from being a hobbyist toy.
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bb4u

I think at the very least that others (Amazon for instance) may potentially look at this for some "inspiration" for their custom Android tablet OS. Ideally, it would be great if they could enable Enyo apps to run on Android just as HP once said that they would have a Web OS running on all their PCs under Windows. This sort of thing seems more viable on a touch based device.

Also, imagine what some of the Android ROM makers and PreWare community might think up combining Android and WebOS (to run on Touchpad initially).
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dave

Do we know what license they're releasing it under? I know a lot of people are saying that other manufacturer's and OS's can start using webOS code for inspiration and such -- but I don't think it's as simple as that. (Plus, most development teams could probably engineer something like this if they put their mind to it.)

I wonder how software patent issues, licensing, and that sort of thing will play into the source code?
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