Open-source webOS is dead on arrival

Open-source webOS is dead on arrival

Summary: The more I look at what HP has had to say about webOS; the more I think the project's as dead as a doornail.

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Is webOS' future in the technology grave-yard?

Is webOS' future the technology grave-yard?

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.

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Topics: Hewlett-Packard, Mobile OS, Open Source, Operating Systems

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21 comments
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  • RE: Open-source webOS is dead on arrival

    I've had similar opinions regarding the open source future of WebOS. I think it's dead as well. If hardware manufactures don't come out with a WebOS phone or tablet within 6 to 8 months, than WebOS surely will become a historical footnote.
    kenosha77a
  • RE: Open-source webOS is dead on arrival

    Well first of all, don't just think tablets as the sole platform. HP was developing WebOS to be the core for many systems like printers, medical gear, etc. Tablets were just one of many. I would also observe, that based on the turmoil that Unity has launched in the Ubuntu community, maybe a WebOS front end, if quickly assembled would be a viable replacement GUI.
    maruadventurer@...
  • Well, considering . . . . . .

    Every time you praise a product it tanks, does panning mean that WEB OS actually has a chance?

    Maybe -
    Cynical99
  • RE: Open-source webOS is dead on arrival

    It may be dead, but I sure wish other companies in the past had released the source code like that; I've had to support far too many obsoleted systems with no available source code. At least in this case the geeks who wish to can improve their own toys.
    zoroaster
    • other companies werent so desperate to do something

      @zoroaster HP drops all this cash on WebOS, drum up all this hype, and then it fails. So what do they do? Give up and make it open source in the hopes that somebody, anybody, will do something with this so we can save face.

      Wow, HP's leadership is totally brilliant!
      otaddy
  • webOS isn't dead...

    ...it just smells funny.
    Win8AnUglyDisaster
    • RE: Open-source webOS is dead on arrival

      @johndow1

      WebOS isn't dead, it's just pining for the fjords...
      jelabarre
    • RE: Open-source webOS is dead on arrival

      @johndow1 Like almonds.
      daengbo
  • RE: Open-source webOS is dead on arrival

    All this guessing and puttiing words in HP's mouth; why not be more cautionary just in case you're wrong and today's embryonic plans flesh out to be something useful/desirable after all? One man's opinion and all that ...
    tom@...
  • Wait and see

    I've seen enough late projects turn out great in the long run that I'm just gonna wait and see. With the code going open, we honestly have no idea what's going to happen (aside from being put on existing hardware).
    ZackCDLVI
    • RE: Open-source webOS is dead on arrival

      @Zc456 - SJVN is not rewarded for being cautious. His job is to attract us to his link bait like flies. He will not be held accountable for being wrong so the incentive is to make dramatic predictions that attract more attention.
      jmalcolm137
      • Actually, its been fun to read his columns now

        @jmalcolm137 Before he was just another OpenSource cheerleader...Linux is great, M$ sucks, ignore Linux problems, exaggerate issues with Windows...blah, blah, blah,

        But lately, he's been criticizing open source: Chrome OS, Firefox, Ubuntu and now WebOS

        It's about time....
        otaddy
      • RE: Open-source webOS is dead on arrival

        @jmalcolm137 So......If he's such a jerk, why are you reading his stuff? Good-bye...
        thebaldguy
  • Why so critical?

    Hypocritical much?

    We say that we want companies to be Open Source friendly and then we dump on them when they are. This is a huge gift and the community could do a lot with it regardless of what HP does.

    We say we want companies to be transparent and open but then bitch when they announce their intentions before reaching 100% complete. There will be a license (the word is they are favouring APL). There will be governance too. That is when we will know WebOS has a shot or not. There may even be hardware.

    Why do we freak out at Google for buying Motorola and then beat-up HP for not producing WebOS hardware? If Google can build the Android ecosystem through partners, then why can't HP do the same with WebOS? Given that Android now costs Samsung $15 per unit (in licensing fees to Microsoft), it may well be that WebOS is an attractive alternative. People seem to love the UI. Also, did you know that HP released more TouchPads into the market just yesterday? I think it is the second best selling tablet after the iPad.

    But of course, the real hardware that HP cares about is printers. I am sure that is how they justify the continued investment in WebOS. WebOS is a huge opportunity for the industry and for the community. If we take good advantage of it, HP will have a nice bonus return on their investment and will perhaps get into the game directly with hardware of their own. That is clearly what they are thinking.
    jmalcolm137
  • Gosh this is good press

    I really wish I payed more attention in school in order to become so insightful, so enlightening ! This was a really riveting read. I specially liked the way you carefully lined and backed up your points, and the way you seem, how should I put this, really into this. Why don't I read more serious newspapers instead of losing time on reddit, slashdot & the like ? Damn, you guys really know your way around the lab.

    Philippe CM
    PhilippeCM
  • Needs Hardware

    WebOS is a near working tablet system that is also good for many embedded applications. But, what it needs is working hardware.

    Perhaps some enterprising group will make a platform for WebOS. We now have Intel, ARM and Mips processors that will do this kind of work. Mips doesn't have much in the way of software to run. Perhaps an inexpensive Mips board, driving an inexpensive touch enabled screen.
    YetAnotherBob
    • Again, WebOS is late to the party

      @YetAnotherBob wrote:
      "Mips doesn't have much in the way of software to run. Perhaps an inexpensive Mips board, driving an inexpensive touch enabled screen.

      "MIPS, Ingenic team on Android 4 tablet for less than $100
      http://www.electronista.com/articles/11/12/05/android.4.7.inch.tablet.in.china.trades.for.100/
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Your thumbs down pretty much guarantees WebOS will be a success.

    Clueless is (unfortunately) what I've come to expect from ZDNet writers. The combination of lack of understanding of technology, markets, strategy, and an apparent inability to stay up to date with what is happening in the industry add up to a lot of bad conclusions.

    Ask yourself why would HP's new CEO, Meg Whitman, make WebOS her pet project? Sure, some CEOs tether themselves to stones that are subsequently thrown overboard, but this one was jettisoned even before she arrived. Is she just stupid or naive to call out WebOS' importance? Not a chance. She's doing it to ensure that it receives adequate resourcing and does undergo the transformation into a broader, non-mobile-phone play.

    This isn't going to be the smartphone or tablet alternate platform anytime soon. However, it could easily become the best free platform for embedded development. As more and more devices strive to become Internet-aware, the emergence of a fully HTML5-ready platform along with high quality development tools couldn't come at a better time. For now we have to watch and see if they really open source all of that user-space code, Enyo, and backend code bases. Doing so will make the platform too compelling to overlook or dismiss. Oh, except by trade rags of course.
    tenimotsu
  • RE: Open-source webOS is dead on arrival

    I agree with SJVN.

    One would have to believe in the tooth fairy to think that HP will put out a WebOS based tablet in 2013. WebOS died the day HP announced they were getting out of the PC vendor market and canceled their tablet. When their tablets began selling at fire sale prices, $99@, they realized that they could recover some cash riding the wave of excitement by selling the returned and refurbished tablets. To ensure that the stock of returned and refurbished tablets would all be sold the next step was to make a "perhaps" (not a promise) that they "could" release another tablet by 2013. What to use as bait to make the "perhaps" seem like a promise? Throwing the FOSS/GPL community the WebOS cadaver. What FOSS/GPL coders would invest their precious time and treasure inventing in WebOS development when they could learn the API for iOS or Android?

    I hope folks find comfort in the fact that there are no returns or refunds on those tablets for which they will be able to find few existing apps and even fewer new minted ones.
    GreyGeek77
  • What a load of toss

    Android is sold/marketed by Google to the general populace via bundled hardware in order to gain power (and ultimately money) in the market. Android also happens to be open source. These are essentially unrelated attributes. If HP attempt the former under the guise of it being a fundamental ingredient of the latter, I will be hugely disappointed.
    tjbp