HP to keep webOS, make available as an undefined open source project

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014
HP has finally outlined its plans for webOS today, stating that it will "contribute the webOS software to the open source community," apparently because it couldn't find a suitable buyer for the platform.



"HP plans to continue to be active in the development and support of webOS," the company announced in a press release moments ago. "By combining the innovative webOS platform with the development power of the open source community, there is the opportunity to significantly improve applications and web services for the next generation of devices."



Bizarrely, HP didn't specify how it would be sharing webOS, whether as a GPL-style "free to use but don't customize it for use in closed projects" license like Linux, or under a "use it anyway you like" license along the lines of the type of BSD/MIT open source licenses favored by Apple, or under a far more restrictive "shared source" type of license favored by Microsoft.



The announcement of such a licensing decision would have far reaching implications for those who might be interested in using the platform or portions of its technologies. However, such a decision would also depend upon how HP plans to mange its vast portfolio of Palm patents.



Whitman's punt



HP's president and chief executive Meg Whitman instead offered the words, ?by contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices.?



Despite its status as a multibillion dollar global corporation, HP was unable to "unleash creativity" or "advance a new generation of applications and devices" on its own over the past year.



The company was widely expected to be a perfect fit for Palm's webOS, given that it is the biggest PC maker worldwide and, in theory, capable of funding expensive development projects through to completion, a problem Palm itself lacked the funds to accomplish.



Instead, HP fired its chief executive behind the $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm and its board hired a new chief executive who lacked experience in running a hardware company, and who decided to convert HP into the kind of enterprise software firm he had run before.



Part of that plan involved spinning off HP's Personal Systems Group, which built all of its computers and was working on new webOS smartphones and tablets. After his ouster, board member Whitman took over as chief executive and announced after several weeks that HP would be retaining its PSG but would continue to deliberate on the fate of webOS, suggesting that there were lots of companies interested in licensing the mobile platform.



No buyer appears for Palm



After months of thinking, HP has announced non-specific plans to make webOS an open source project of some kind, noting that it will "engage the open source community to help define the charter of the open source project."



The project is only defined as involving continued "open development of the webOS platform," where "HP will be an active participant and investor in the project," and efforts will be made to set up "good, transparent and inclusive governance to avoid fragmentation" where "software will be provided as a pure open source project."



HP also said it would contribute its ENYO application framework for webOS to the community in "the near future." Internally, ENYO, which is designed to enable flexible, fast development of web applications, was said to be employed in testing on Apple's iPad, where it ran twice as fast as HP's own hardware, largely because of Apple's more sophisticated JavaScript implementation.







Offering your dog food as FOSS instead of eating it



With the remains of Palm's webOS dripping with mobile-relevant patents and functional technology, HP appears more interested in retaining control of the project and its intellectual property than in monetizing its acquired platform directly, either though a risky licensing program along the lines of Windows Phone 7 (difficult to do in a market dominated by free Android software) or an outright sale of Palm that might have endangered HP's ability to use the webOS software itself.



One report indicated that HP was trying to sell off its Palm assets while "demanding that potential buyers license webOS back to it on the cheap for use in printers."



Whitman seemed to make it clear that HP was abandoning any notion of building new webOS tablets of its own however, instead announcing that HP would be releasing tablets based on Windows 8 next year, following the company's failed Slate PC last year running Windows 7.



[Update: Whitman has announced HP will eventually return to building webOS-powered tablets by 2013, after introducing Windows 8 tablets next year.]
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 40
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    To quote Gruber, "I hope I’m wrong, but I think this is just the difference between putting your dog down and letting it free on a distant mountain road."
  • Reply 2 of 40
    jexusjexus Posts: 373member
    Sweet! More tinkering to be done and more ports and builds to spread to work on.
  • Reply 3 of 40
    conradjoeconradjoe Posts: 1,887member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    HP has finally outlined its plans for webOS today, stating that it will "contribute the webOS software to the open source community,"



    "HP plans to continue to be active in the development and support of webOS," the company announced in a press release moments ago. "By combining the innovative webOS platform with the development power of the open source community, there is the opportunity to significantly improve applications and web services for the next generation of devices."







    This is great news! I'm sure that anybody that values innovation will be pleased!
  • Reply 4 of 40
    tylerk36tylerk36 Posts: 1,037member
    Well I have to say that I run a program that utilizes a Palm data base. The os that HP has decided to keep is based on the Palm OS. I actually enjoy the data base that I use on my iPad via iSilo. I am glad that HP is gonna keep it.
  • Reply 5 of 40
    If you can't sell it, you give it for free ! Perfect management decision, uh ?
  • Reply 6 of 40
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by umrk_lab View Post


    If you can't sell it, you give it for free ! Perfect management decision, uh ?



    Then sue for patent infringements later on.
  • Reply 7 of 40
    This is weak sauce. Throwing another codebase out into the arena with no support. I haven't heard anything particularly exciting about WebOS, so why would any tinkerer be drawn to it instead of Android? Or Linux? Or even Amiga OS?



    This is just making a bonfire as an excuse to get rid of the trash.



    Brett James

    http://thedeadfallproject.com
  • Reply 8 of 40
    I think it's the only decision that makes sense for H-P. So let it be written, so let it be done.
  • Reply 9 of 40
    docno42docno42 Posts: 3,285member
    For corporations you have to treat open source like a loan of money to a family member: not expecting to get anything back but happy if someone does contribute. It also helps if your open source efforts are integrated with other goals.



    Like Apple with WebKit. The real value in WebKit was the establishing of it as a standard for mobile browsing. All mobile web browsers on non-legacy mobile OSs, except for maybe MS, are the same.



    That's where Androids marketshare benefits Apple directly.



    I don't see how WebOS can be a similar enabler as a supplemental strategy. The value was in having a vertical solution, but HP screwed that up!
  • Reply 10 of 40
    quinneyquinney Posts: 2,525member
    The press release doesn't mention any employee layoffs.

    What is to become of the WebOS team?
  • Reply 11 of 40
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by quinney View Post


    The press release doesn't mention any employee layoffs.

    What is to become of the WebOS team?



    Gone!
  • Reply 12 of 40
    quinneyquinney Posts: 2,525member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    Gone!



    That's what I thought too.

    Meg: "have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and here is your pink slip"
  • Reply 13 of 40
    I doubt those patents are going to be "[let] free on a distant mountain road." WebOS is admirable on its own but the patent trove that came with it is deep.
  • Reply 14 of 40
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by quinney View Post


    That's what I thought too.

    Meg: "have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and here is your pink slip"



    Well, to be fair, the division is effectively dead and it would make no sense to keep on non-productive employees. It seems callous to the employee, but it is business reality.
  • Reply 15 of 40
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,664member
    I think HP should give it away to the phone manufacturers for free. That way, the phone manu's can decide between Android or WebOS with a free license. Beat Google at its game.
  • Reply 16 of 40
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jungmark View Post


    I think HP should give it away to the phone manufacturers for free. That way, the phone manu's can decide between Android or WebOS with a free license. Beat Google at its game.



    Excellent suggestion.
  • Reply 17 of 40
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    To quote Gruber, "I hope I?m wrong, but I think this is just the difference between putting your dog down and letting it free on a distant mountain road."



    I don't think it's that bad. Look at how many people have done things with Android. And WebOS has some significant advantages over Android.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Brett the James View Post


    This is weak sauce. Throwing another codebase out into the arena with no support. I haven't heard anything particularly exciting about WebOS, so why would any tinkerer be drawn to it instead of Android? Or Linux? Or even Amiga OS?



    I like WebOS. It's certainly better than any of the Android products I've used. With a couple of years of serious work, it could actually give iOS a run for its money in terms of usability.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jungmark View Post


    I think HP should give it away to the phone manufacturers for free. That way, the phone manu's can decide between Android or WebOS with a free license. Beat Google at its game.



    That's essentially what they're doing. Anyone who wants it can use it.
  • Reply 18 of 40
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by quinney View Post


    The press release doesn't mention any employee layoffs.

    What is to become of the WebOS team?



    Most of them have already left to new job offers.



    The HP layoff package isn't worth waiting for.
  • Reply 19 of 40
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,155member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jungmark View Post


    I think HP should give it away to the phone manufacturers for free. That way, the phone manu's can decide between Android or WebOS with a free license. Beat Google at its game.



    Great idea and isn't that kind of what they've done?
  • Reply 20 of 40
    I would be willing to make a bet - that Meg will end up making the same decision that Leo made with their computer business - although she'll do a better job of marketing her decision as being positive.



    This "decision" on the future of WebOS is a not a decision at all - at least in how it's being portrayed. Unless there is some underlying "plan" for tossing the software out as open source that will benefit HP that I'm missing...



    Are they hoping that it gets fully developed for "free" then and only then will they start using it on new hardware? I assume Meg knew they were not competitive today and didn't have a plan that was executable to get them to the point of being competitive to Android or iOS. The same decision that Leo made a few months ago.
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