Why open-source WebOS has legs: because people fear Google

Summary:Sure, Google's got products and services we all use, but Google, these days, often seems more Borg and less don't-be-evil.

Wow. Just wow. I love those days in our industry when you can feel the ground shake. You never know if it's just a tremor, or if there's a full-on earthquake coming along behind it, but the tremor is there.

Today is one of those days. Meg Whitman, now of HP, has release the former Palm's wonderful mobile operating system, WebOS, into the open-source world.

This could be big. Granted, WebOS hasn't taken off, but that's more because Palm and then HP couldn't solidify their ground game than that WebOS wasn't good enough. By any measure, WebOS is an excellent mobile OS. It's up-to-date, competitive, and has a fine user interface.

It is -- absent the appstore infrastructure -- every bit as solid for mobile devices as iOS or Android.

But WebOS has one very big thing going for it that Android doesn't: it's not Google. And that's where I think WebOS has its biggest potential. People, users and vendors, are running scared of Google. Sure, Google's got products and services we all use, but Google, these days, often seems more Borg and less don't-be-evil.

Even more to the point, Google scares vendors. After all, not only does Google have the OS, they've also gone and bought a major mobile hardware company. Vendors who run Android do so because it's freely available, but they run the risk of being under Google's thumb.

This would not be the case with WebOS. Sure, there's the whole big mo' thing that has to be factored into the equation, but if I were a betting man, I'd bet that we'll see WebOS start to take off with fringe products, but then we'll see one or two bigger players adopt WebOS simply because it's not Google.

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Topics: Open Source, Google, Mobile OS, Operating Systems

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In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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