WebOS, the mobile operating system with a social heart that was developed by Palm in 2008/9 and then brought under the vast shadow of HP in 2010 is going open source. This will come as a welcome surprise for those that have supported the OS over the years as well as those that have recently picked up a TouchPad.
This move is a u-turn from HP, where current CEO Meg Whitman tries to undo or at least limit the damage caused by her predecessor Léo Apotheker. It also brings the open source community that Palm originally wooed with WebOS at launch, by making it relatively easy to hack, back into the fold. The OS may never reach the userbase required to compete with Android or iOS, but this certainly does open it up to many new opportunities. Many users who loved WebOS have complained over the years that the hardware just didn’t stack up to the iPhone or leading Android smartphones – but now the OS is open source it may appear on a wide array of devices and configurations. It is certainly another option for manufacturers to choose who had previously only had the Android option due to it being free and its early open source chops.
This move could also cause problems for Windows Phone 7 – as Microsoft is only just starting to make a dent in the smartphone market with its latest OS – and now there is another competitor in what is a pretty crowded space. HP should certainly be commended on this decision, but it is a shame that it didn’t happen two years ago – if that were the case it could have given Android a run for its money.