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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

"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.