HP announced recently that it would release its webOS mobile operating system as open source software. Now the company is providing a roadmap.

HP TouchPad

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.

HP is kicking things off by releasing Enyo under an open source license today. Enyo is a JavaScript application framework which developers can use to write apps for webOS.

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.

For now, the most exciting thing about webOS products such as the HP TouchPad is that you can install Google Android on them to make more useful.

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3 replies on “HP: webOS to go fully open source by September”

  1. Wow.  I’m one of the few proud original Pre owners.  I’ve dabbled with their SDKs and even made an app using Ares.  Glad to see this.  Hope it isn’t too late.  It always felt like if they could get a optimized JIT java layer like Android did when Dalvik hit, the OS would be responsive.  That and it needed to offload the eye candy to the GPU better.  

    That said now that I have an iPad and an Android phone… I can honestly say WebOS is still my favorite mobile OS…  It just sucks that they were never able to ramp up and get up to where the other mobile OSs are right now.

  2. I wonder if this will include driver source for touchpad hardware, like the camera.  That would be helpful.

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