Analysis: HP Releases webOS to Open Source Community

by Ben Bajarin   |   December 9th, 2011

Today HP made a fascinating decision. One that is disruptive, exciting, and could lead to valuable innovation. HP has decided to release webOS to the open source community. This decision could have significant impact on the mobile landscape and may end up being one of the most disruptive moves yet.

A quote from the release:

“HP plans to continue to be active in the development and support of webOS. 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.”

The move by HP to put webOS into Open Source is a brilliant one. Although it was a disaster for them and forced them to write off the $3 billion they invested in it, it is now a gift from them to consumers and could have a drastic impact on the future of mobile devices. Next to Apple’s iOS, webOS is arguably the best non-Apple mobile OS on the market. And it is easy to develop for since software developers can use mainstream Web tools to create webOS applications. Also as a part of the release to open source HP will also contribute ENYO, the application framework for webOS.

Meg Whitman stated in a quote from the press release:

“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.”

Unlike Google’s Android or Windows 8 for tablets, it will come with no strings attached. As a rich Open Source OS, webOS could finally reach its full potential. It would not surprise me to see many of the big Android backers in tablets move quickly to webOS and some may even use it for some innovative smart phones as well.

We believe Android could be the biggest loser from this move by HP. Google has constantly taken criticism from the OEMs due to their lack of unity in releases and overall short roadmap. We have heard countless times how many vendors desire a better option than Android. To many of them Windows Phone provided an opportunity but now this void may be filled by webOS.

HP said they plan to continue to invest in the webOS open source project and will have dedicated team members involved with the open source community.

The move of webOS to Open Source is great news for vendors, developers and consumers and could quickly become one of the better options for OEMs who want more control of their designs and mobile OS user interface in order to help them differentiate themselves from competitors.

Related: Dear Industry – Dare to Differntiate

I applaud this move and although it is bold I believe it has the potential to benefit this industry greatly. I am extremely excited to see how the open source community, developers, and OEMs embrace this opportunity. This is perhaps one of the most exciting pieces of news of 2011.

Check out this small forum thread on HP’s website, asking them to release webOS to open source.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research. He is a husband, father, gadget enthusiast, trend spotter, early adopter and hobby farmer. Full Bio
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  • http://twitter.com/XIPRELAY David

    What a unbelievably disrupting yet good piece of news for the open source community.
    This will shake things up like never before. Bravo meg! Bravo!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ROSNCEUH6GSBXAWCKQZK2XQAFY Wikileaks is Democracy

    Hi Ben,
    Why might WebOS also not fragment?

    • Anonymous

      It may, but what has always intrigued me about webOS is the framework and development tools around how apps are made. webOS apps are built similarly the way web apps are built, as webOS is a more web oriented framework. Palm was always clear that if you could write for the web then you can write for webOS.

      I look at the Twitter web app for example,which does not work in Androids browser but does on iPhone, and you see an app running in the browser that looks identical to the native, installed, app. Same is true of Facebook.

      This is the direction I believe we are heading which means that the fragmentation can be controlled, so long as the browser on all the variations stays the same, or at least close. webOS is built around web kit and was always designed to embrace a more web centric development approach. This is believe will help it manage with any level of fragmentation.

      They key to webOS now, however, will be the semiconductor companies. I am already in discussions with all of them on what to do with webOS.