When HP first announced that webOS and Enyo its application framework, would live on as an open-source project I thought it might have a chance to be successful. Now, after listening to HP's slightly more detailed plans and due consideration, I think webOS is a dead operating system walking. Here's why
1. Plan? What Plan?
HP hasn't decided on a license, a governance plan, or even what they'll do with their existing webOS staff. Does HP CEO Meg Whitman really have any kind of clue as to what the company will be doing with webOS? Simply open-sourcing a project means more than just saying that eventually you'll dump-ah release-the code to the public. Without commitment, resources, and, oh yes, a plan, webOS will only end up in a technology grave-yard along side Maemo, BeOS, and OS/2.
2. Where's the hardware?
To avoid an untimely end, webOS needs its own tablet hardware. Sure, hackers will run it on iPads and Android-tablets, but that's not a viable market. So, where's the hardware for webOS customers? Whitman has said that "HP could make WebOS-powered tablets in 2013."
Could? Could!? In 2013!! Come on HP, get with it!
People say Microsoft waited too long for Windows 8 and its 2012 tablet plans and you want to wait another year beyond that? My colleague James Kendrick worries that HP entering the tablet market might keep HTC, Samsung or some other original equipment manufacturer (OEM) from building webOS hardware. I, on the other hand, wonder given HP's non-support, why the other OEMs would bother with it. If HP won't support it, why should they?
The bottom line is HP appears to be not so much contributing webOS to the open-source community as it is abandoning it to open source. Neither Google with Android nor Apple with iOS will need to worry about webOS being a competitor. Unless HP shows that they'll be a lot more serious about supporting open-source webOS than it has to date, webOS is dead as the Indianapolis Colts' Super Bowl hopes.
Gravestone image by rubber bullets, , CC 2.0.