HP open sources WebOS: The fallout

WebOS' ultimate open source fate remains to be seen, but rest assured there could be some disruption ahead for the smartphone industry.

Hewlett-Packard has decided to open source its WebOS in a bet that the mobile operating system can garner developer interest and become relevant again. WebOS' ultimate fate remains to be seen, but rest assured there could be some disruption ahead for the smartphone industry. Also: HP: WebOS, Enyo app framework goes open source | CNET: Sorry, WebOS is doomed to fail | webOS' potential: A headache for iOS, Android? | HP to make webOS open source; is it just prolonging the end?

Among the key ripple effects to ponder:

  • The impact on Android. Android is the king of mobile as well as open source operating systems. However, carriers and smartphone makers want to diversify away from Android as well as Apple's iOS. WebOS could be a nice diversification tool that could splinter Android support. The other reality: The WebOS UI is better than Android's, but Google's platform has the apps.
  • Open source developers. WebOS will be a new toy and will initially garner interest. One interesting thought is that Android and WebOS code could ultimately merge into either a frankenOS or a threat to Apple's iOS.
  • Device makers. HTC, Samsung and others are likely to watch WebOS popularity closely. Why? The WebOS could be a nice hedge against Android's power. These Android device makers are already in a race to the bottom.
  • Windows Phone. Most carriers want a No. 3 platform and presumed Windows Phone and Nokia would be a likely candidate. WebOS could take off and be another headache for Microsoft.
  • Research in Motion. RIM also has its big OS bet with the BlackBerry 10 OS---formerly BBX. WebOS could steal RIM's thunder again. Conversely, WebOS could be an option for RIM at a later date.
  • Developers. If the WebOS platform gains traction developers could have one more avenue to monetize applications. Diversification could be a boon.
  • HP's role in the mobile ecosystem. The open source bet is a nice Christmas present for developers. If WebOS surges, HP will look like it turned lemons into lemonade. If not, HP at least tried.
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