“According to Melissa Chau, research manager for client devices at IDC Asia-Pacific, the analyst explained that there is currently a “big fight for developers” among mobile OS ecosystem. In this landscape, WebOS faces a “chicken and egg” problem as hardware vendors will find it hard to justify building devices for an OS that few developers are building on, while developers will not want to work on an ecosystem that does not have hardware vendors.”
SAN FRANCISCO – Hewlett Packard has decided to open its webOS mobile operating system to developers and companies, potentially taking on Google’s free Android platform that is popular with handset makers.
HP, which acquired webOS in a US$1.2-billion (S$1.6-billion) purchase of Palm in 2010, had been trying to figure out how to recoup its investment after a failed foray into the smartphone and tablet market.
The 600-strong webOS division – or as many of its staff who wants to go – will in effect be spun off into a separate startup business trying to take advantage of the 750,000 HP Touchpads that have been sold, and any Palm smartphones.
HP chief executive Meg Whitman said the company looked at a number of options for webOS, including a sale and shut down of the division.
The technology giant will make webOS available under an open source licensing agreement, but it has still not hashed out the terms of the licensing deal it plans to offer.
There are a number of open source projects that can be used as examples for deciding the structure of licensing, including Android and browser Mozilla.
The company plans to solicit ideas from developers before deciding on the licensing terms, Ms Whitman said.
The future of webOS had been in limbo since August after HP killed its flagship webOS-based TouchPad tablet following poor sales.
Ms Whitman also said HP may get back into the consumer tablet market in 2013 but it will not be making any more smartphones.
While Google has the world’s most-used mobile system with over 550,000 devices activated every day, HP’s webOS could be an alternative to companies apprehensive that the Web search giant may compete with them directly in the smartphone handset market through its US$12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility.
The webOS platform, which had been HP-only software, is widely viewed as a strong mobile platform, but has been criticised for having few applications – an important consideration while choosing a mobile device.
Most developers prefer to work on Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android because both are on millions of devices – unlike webOS.
“Making it open source changes the rules of the game and has the potential to make (webOS) more appealing,” said Mr Van Baker, an analyst with Gartner. “It presents a potential challenge to Android, but I wouldn’t call it a real challenge until we get a little further down the road.”
HP still has to make sure the code is available and the tools for developers are as robust as those provided by Android to succeed, he added.
HP has not revealed its plans for any mobile hardware after the TouchPad was killed. AGENCIES
“The ideal market is to position webOS as an operating system for the in-car infotainment control system which has a worldwide car market appeal with modifications to its source codes as it has a unique way to handle multitasking in its linux kernel, keeping it open source, as it is not resource hungry, imagine what it will be like if every device manufacturer needs your OS to work to control the car/train/ship. – Contributed by Oogle.”