This morning we brought you news that Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlitt-Packard, would be holding a meeting today at 10:30 AM Pacific time to determine the fate of the company’s webOS mobile operating system. The result of that meeting was a press release announcing that HP will be making the source code for the operating system available to developers under an open source license.
While HP says they plan to continue actively developing webOS, they hope to draw interest and innovation from the open source community. The goal, according to HP’s statement, is to improve applications and web services for the next generation of devices. Interestingly, however, there is no mention of any plans to make hardware. This leaves the fate of the platform still very much in the air, with no indication as to when we might expect to see any new webOS phones or tablets.
By turning webOS into an open source, non-hardware specific platform, HP may be signaling an intent to offer challenge to Android. In the present climate handset manufacturers who want to participate in the smartphone market are forced to either write their own operating system – no small task – or adopt Google’s Android platform. An open source webOS would provide hardware companies with a way to diversify their device lineup and reduce their dependence on Google. Also, by sharing webOS with the open source community, HP gets to keep the platform, but also put one foot out the door. This move allows them to revamp webOS while also giving them an easy out if the project fails.
Twitter was abuzz this afternoon following the announcement, and reactions were all over the place. Some regarded the decision as another bad move by HP, and as the death knell for webOS.
Others were more enthusiastic.
#WebOS is probably the smartest move the current HP could make wrt that platform. bit.ly/ugevohOpen Sourcing
Grant Paul, a well-known figure in the iOS jailbreak community, chimed in as well.
Even if webOS itself doesn’t continue, open source means it can and will be used to improve the rest of the ecosystem.
I think many people are missing that webOS already has the design, it’s just missing implementation. That works well with open source.
What do you think? Is making webOS open source a stroke of genius or a major blunder? Let us know in the comments.