HP Contributes webOS Platform to Open Source

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

HP announced that it will contribute its webOS mobile operating system to the open source community and will continue to develop for the platform, too.

HP ended the months of rumors and speculation today, announcing that it will contribute its webOS software acquired for $1.2 billion last year to the open source community, and that it will continue to develop on the platform. But HP made no mention of whether it will continue to develop hardware for webOS.

HP said it 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. HP said it will continue to develop the mobile OS, too.

"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," HP said in a statement, noting that the platform offers benefits to the entire ecosystem of web applications, including multiplatform portability.

Depending on who you ask, this move either signals the death knell for webOS, indicating that HP was unable to find a buyer (and phone and tablet hardware vendors will be unlikely to pick up an open source OS) or it’s a brilliant move that will offer a second life for the mobile OS in a tough market dominated by Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. But that doesn't mean that there aren't obstacles.

"The hardware vendors who might license will be very nervous licensing from another hardware vendor," Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group told Channel Insider.  "On the other hand many are not happy with Google particularly after Google bought Motorola so if HP is successful they may have Google to thank for it.  Samsung for one has never found an OS they didn’t want to try out."

HP touted the platform’s benefits in announcing webOS’s fate.

"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, inviting inputs and suggestions at the Palm Developer blog here, said it will work with the open source community to help define the charter of the open source project under the following set of operating principles:

  • 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 also will contribute ENYO, the application framework for webOS, to the community in the near future along with a plan for the remaining components of the user space.



Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com