WebOS lives on as an open-source project, HP declares

There are two reads on this news: Either HP couldn't find a reasonable buyer or the company is betting it can take off on its own.

Hewlett-Packard said it is open sourcing WebOS and the Enyo application framework.

Company officials told ZDNet that open sourcing WebOS was the best move after the company reviewed the various possibilities for the mobile operating system. There are two reads on the WebOS news: HP couldn't find a reasonable buyer or the company is betting it can take off on its own.

HP's WebOS was a casualty when the company exited the tablet and smartphone business. HP acquired WebOS via the Palm acquisition, a deal that looked interesting at the time, but amounted to a $1.2 billion sinkhole.

New HP CEO Meg Whitman, who took over in September, now has the largest looming issues for the company resolved. She completed the Autonomy deal, decided to keep the PC unit and now has open sourced WebOS.

In some respects, the WebOS move is savvy. HP, which probably could have sold the OS for something, decided that WebOS could attract developers as an open source project. And given that Apple's iOS and Android dominate the smartphone landscape, the WebOS bet makes sense. Smartphone carriers will need some kind of hedge. By open sourcing WebOS, HP could find a following for the mobile platform.

What's next?

HP releases the WebOS source code and evaluates what relevance it has among developers. Officially, HP will evaluate WebOS as it would any other platform when choosing whether to use it.

In reality, the WebOS outcome could be binary: Either developers keep it going or it dies in an open source graveyard. Often, code is open sourced as a last ditch effort to stay relevant.

This item first appeared on ZDNet's Between the Lines blog under the headline "HP: WebOS, Enyo app framework goes open source."

 

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