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12/9/2011
04:53 PM
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HP To Release webOS As Open Source

CEO Meg Whitman even suggests there may be another webOS tablet in two years.

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When former HP CEO Leo Apotheker said in August that HP would exit the personal computer business and stop manufacturing its TouchPad tablet, webOS appeared to be doomed. The mobile operating system, regarded as innovative by many developers, just didn't look like it could realistically carve out a market for itself in an environment dominated by iOS, Android, Blackberry OS, and Windows Phone, among others.

A month later, Apotheker was ousted and replaced by former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. As CEO of HP, Whitman promptly reversed course and said HP would continue to sell personal computers, owing to the ancillary benefits of participating in the low-margin PC business and to the cost of divestiture.

Whitman withheld passing sentence on webOS until Friday when she set the project free. HP, she said, will make webOS available to the open source community.

"webOS is the only platform designed from the ground up to be mobile, cloud-connected, and scalable," said Whitman in a statement. "By contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices."

Google's Android, Nokia's MeeGo, and Intel's Tizen presumably are not sufficiently mobile, cloud-connected, or scalable to meet Whitman's criteria.

[ HP Will Keep PC Division. Find out why. ]

The terms under which webOS will be released are not yet clear. Dion Almaer, vice president of mobile architecture at Walmart.com and the former director of developer relations at webOS creator Palm, noted in a blog post that HP's announcement doesn't specify whether every part of webOS--from low-level embedded code to libraries like Enyo and images and assets--will be released as open source. (HP says it will release Enyo, the application development framework, with webOS.) He also notes that the open source license for webOS has not yet been specified.

Matthew McNulty, director of developer tools at HP/Palm, suggests via Twitter that the Apache 2.0 license is being considered.

There's also the issue of what HP's promise to remain involved in the project and to offer "good, transparent and inclusive governance to avoid fragmentation," really means, observes Almaer.

One thing it might mean is that HP, despite having discontinued its webOS-based TouchPad earlier this year, might make another webOS tablet in 2013, or so Whitman told AllThingsD. As for next year, HP will be focused on Windows 8 tablets.

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