HP announced recently that it would release its webOS mobile operating system as open source software. Now the company is providing a roadmap.
The goal is to release the first open souce version of webOS by September, 2012. Along the way the company will start using a standard Linux kernel instead of a custom kernel, update the development tools for webOS and release a beta of Open webOS by August.
WebOS was initially developed by Palm for use on smartphones. HP acquired Palm for $1.2 billion and created a version of the operating system optimized for tablets before launching the HP TouchPad in the summer of 2011. But a few months later HP killed the TouchPad and all of smartphones due to sluggish sales.
That left the fate of webOS in limbo for a while. In December HP announced that it would make webOS open source rather than selling or licensing the software to another company. This leaves open the door for future HP webOS products — but could also make webOS into an Android-like platform that other companies can adopt for their own phones or tablets free of charge.
Enyo 1.0 is already open source. HP has also released the core of Enyo 2.0.
As the name of the operating suggests, the tools for creating webOS apps are similar to the tools you would use to create applications for the web. In fact, Enyo 2.0 allows developers to write cross-platform apps that can run on webOS, and in web browsers including Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer 9 and Safari.
It’s not yet clear what impact the open sourcing of webOS will have. The folks behind the Symbian mobile operating system took a similar approach a while back… but Symbian is pretty much a dead platform walking now that Nokia is committed to using Windows Phone 7 in its future smartphones.
Companies looking for an alternative to Google Android may look to webOS in the future, and independent developers may be able to add new features to existing webOS phones or tablets or even shoehorn webOS onto tablets designed to run other operating systems. But it’s also possible that the prospects for webOS won’t improve at all once HP finishes releasing the source code later this year.