Hewlett-Packard plans on making the webOS source code available under an open-source license by September, according to the company.
As part of that ramp-up, HP is releasing version 2.0 of Enyo, the webOS developer tool. Developers using the tool will have the ability to write webOS applications supported across a broad range of mobile devise and desktop Web browsers, including iOS and Android platforms.
HP’s webOS roadmap includes a release of Enyo 2.1 in April, followed by Enyo 2.2 in July. The Open webOS Beta will appear in August, followed by Open webOS 1.0 in September. HP is making webOS code available under the Apache License, Version 2.0.
HP first announced it would make webOS an open-source project in December. As part of that announcement, the company indicated that it would serve as an “investor” and work to “avoid fragmentation” of the code, although the extent of its financial participation remains unclear. The decision gives a broad cross-section of players-from developers to HP engineers-the ability to tweak and enhance the platform as they see fit.
HP had previously expressed high hopes for webOS, which it inherited as part of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm in 2010. It later loaded the operating system onto the TouchPad, a tablet it hoped would compete with Apple’s iPad for share of the burgeoning U.S. consumer tablet market. However, within six weeks of the TouchPad’s July 1 release, anemic sales led then-CEO Leo Apotheker to order the project terminated. At the same time, he killed HP’s nascent smartphone strategy, also based on webOS.
A few weeks later, HP’s board forced out Apotheker. His successor, Meg Whitman, had to decide whether to sell webOS, mothball it or make it open source. In early November, several technology companies, including HP rival Oracle, were reportedly considering whether to make a bid for the platform.
As an open-source project, webOS has the potential to expand across products from multiple vendors. By choosing to go that route, however, HP effectively takes a bath on its Palm-associated costs. Will other companies seek to profit from HP’s loss, and create their own lines of products running some version of webOS? Time will tell.