HP to make webOS open-source

12 Dec 11

After weeks of deliberation, HP CEO Meg Whitman has ruled on the fate of the company’s operating system, webOS, announcing that it will ‘contribute’ the software to the open-source community.

Acquired in the purchase of Palm in 2010, webOS was put on the chopping block in August, after the failure of the TouchPad tablet.

By going open source, HP is hoping to harness the power of the developer community to keep webOS alive in the face of overwhelming competition from the likes of Apple, Google and (eventually) Microsoft.

"By contributing this innovation,” Whitman says, "HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices.”

Analysts have had mixed reactions to the decision.

Most agree the inability to sell webOS reflects badly on the platform, but in the absence of a buyer going open-source is the next best thing.

For users with devices running webOS – including the many who picked up a TouchPad in the fire sales which followed its demise – there is cause to believe the system will live on at least a while longer, perhaps until HP or some other hardware manufacturer brings out a new device in 2012 or 2013.

For developers, the move will offer another option in the open-source OS environment, particularly as Android becomes more popular and more crowded.

For competitors, open-sourcing webOS may just undermine their offerings to some degree, if it can catch on with the developer community.

Unfortunately, with competitors all pouring resources into operating systems, there’s every chance making webOS open-source is just too little, too late. But with few options remaining, HP has at least given itself one last shot at success.

Do you think HP has made the right call on webOS? Post your comments below.

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