SAN JOSE, Calif. – Apparently not finding a buyer for its WebOS mobile operating system, Hewlett-Packard Co. has announced it will contribute the software to the open source community. HP created an online site to take comments on its plans.
HP will "continue to be active in the development and support of WebOS," the company said in a brief statement. However HP made no commitments to use the code in any of its products.
HP said it will make the underlying code of WebOS available under an open source license but did not say which one. It will also make the WebOS application framework, Enyo, available as open source "in the near future along with other components of the user space," HP said.
In addition, HP said it will engage the open source community to help define the charter of the open source project under a set of operating principles. They include accelerating open development on the software, providing transparent governance to prevent fragmentation and making HP and active "participant and investor in the project."
In a separate FAQ, HP was non-commital about any future WebOS proiducyts.
"As WebOS gains traction as an open source alternative in the marketplace, you could see webOS on several different types of devices by any number of vendors," it said. "We will explore the viability of putting webOS on devices, just as we do for other leading operating systems." it added.
The news suggests HP was unable to find a buyer for WebOS. Amazon was rumored to be one propsective purchaser for its future Kindle devices. However, having already created a variant of Android for the Kindle Fire the rumor seemed implausible.
The news also suggests HP has yet to work out a number of details including the nature of any open WebOS group, HP's role in it and the exact terms of WebOS licenses.
Continued uncertainty in such details—and the lack of shipping products--could serve to further undermine interest in the mobile OS. Without a solid standard bearer using the software and managing its road map, it's unlikely WebOS can gain enough market traction or stay technically relevant enough to catch up with its major alternatives such as Android and other mobile Linux variants.
WebOS was based heavily on HTML5, aiming to get a leap on competitors and promise greater applications portability.
"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, in a prepatred statement. "By contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices," she said but declined to announce any support fore the OS in HP products.