HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

Summary: So let me get this straight. To get the HP TouchPad to perform as well as its main competitor, I have to hack the WebOS operating system?

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My ZDNet blogging colleague James Kendrick has written an excellent piece for HP TouchPad owners on how to dramatically improve performance by using a WebOS community-supported software stack called Preware that is written by a team of community software developers over at WebOS Internals.

Effectively, with these 3rd-party patches and hacks, it actually makes the TouchPad comparable in performance to an iPad 2 or an Android 3.2-based tablet, which alleviates many of the problems that reviewers and users have experienced with the product since it has launched.

I've tested them on my own loaner TouchPad and I can say definitively that they absolutely do work. If you own a TouchPad, I strongly recommend installing them.

That being said, I think that if you as a consumer have to install any kind of "Hack" on a product to make it run optimally, then from the perspective of a mobile platform and as a device manufacturer, you've failed miserably.

I don't want to pick on HP specifically, because Google is absolutely guilty of this with Android and Honeycomb as well.

I've expressed my views on this extensively in the past, such as when I returned the Motorola XOOM the first time around and pointed at my colleague Scott Raymond's comparative success with it when rooting the device and installing a special kernel to give him access to his MicroSD card and overclock capability.

We all know Android has these issues because it is a licensed and Open Source platform that is largely experiencing these problems due to fragmentation and loss of control when it gets in the hands of the OEMs/ODMs. And yes, I know that Google has committed itself as of late to try to solve a number of these problems.

But Hewlett-Packard has no such excuses. They fully control the WebOS platform and they control the hardware that it runs on. They've got nobody to blame for the TouchPad not performing up to par but themselves.

If the TouchPad shipped with software that gimped the processor by not allowing it to scale to its maximum speed, and the OS was set to log debugging events which takes up a significant amount of processor time, it's no wonder that the product didn't perform as expected as shipped.

This is clear a failure of HP to execute at software engineering, as I outlined in a recent article.

I think what the folks are doing at WebOSinternals.org with their Preware project is commendable and important. Like the many members of the Android community such as XDA-Developers that develop performance-enhancing patches, utilities and kernels for smartphones and tablets, I believe these sort of 3rd-party communities do play an essential role in the software development lifecycle for any group of product enthusiasts.

These types of communities are especially important when products are either in their end of service life, or for folks that just want to run something different than what the OEM or the carrier intended.

My almost 2-year old Motorola Droid, for example runs CyanogenMOD 7 which is an Android Gingerbread implementation the phone was never designed to run, and it is great that I can still keep my device running up-to-date software long after Motorola stopped issuing updates for it.

However, with Android, the CyanogenMOD people and other developers like them engaging in similar activities are participating in a fully Open Source process, albeit a flawed one.

WebOS on the other hand is not a fully Open Source platform. In fact the only Open Source parts of the platform are the very same core embedded Linux OS bits and userspace libraries used in many other consumer electronics products.

However, the WebOS "Luna" UI layer and underlying libraries which are the foundation of the APIs for Luna are completely closed.

I've learned on the down-low that the WebOSInternals folks are apparently acting as a form of supplementary engineering team for Hewlett-Packard who is using them to exchange code and software engineering expertise as needed to integrate it into their products.

This is absolutely ridiculous if these rumors are actually substantiated. It would be the equivalent of Apple using the Cydia project and the jailbreaking community as unpaid pseudo-employees to improve iOS.

The bottom line is this: no consumer wants to have to hack their product using these community-supported packages to make their device work as advertised out of the box. If these patches were actually needed, they should have been applied prior to shipping the OS on the device.

And if HP is going to use double-secret community developers to improve their software, then they might as well do the honest thing and Open Source all of WebOS, for real. Because what they are currently doing in my opinion is unprofessional and only hurts adoption of the platform.

It's time to make WebOS an Honest Woman, HP.

By fully Open Sourcing WebOS, and licensing their software in a proper, controlled manner and setting appropriate guidelines for community contributions and integrating that code into their products, Hewlett-Packard can set an example for even companies like Google which are floundering with their own attempts at maintaining order with their respective platforms.

Should HP do the right thing and Open Source WebOS? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Mobility, Software Development, Software, Operating Systems, Open Source, Android, Mobile OS, Linux, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Tablets

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Message has been deleted.

    yoemei
  • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

    I wouldn't want them to OpenSource it, as they need control over the content. Look what happened to Android. They do, however, really, really need to fix it. I went from "can't wait" to "maybe iPad2?" with two visits at the store. Not as good as I'd really hoped.
    dalspartan
    • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

      @dalspartan Yes, I'm sure HP doesn't want WebOS to go from nothing to 2nd (or 3rd, depending on the source) in the mobile device OS market in 3 years.
      anothercanuck
      • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

        Great, anothercanuck. Hit the nail right on the head there. Every single open source product on the market right now is at least 2nd or 3rd in it's arena.
        Lerianis10
      • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

        @anothercanuck

        Apple and iOS make all the money in the mobile space.
        LP212
    • Actually, UML it

      If WebOS was made a free download as a Windows app, a-la User Mode Linux, it would have a better chance of building a big ecosystem. People could then use it on their PC as well as their tablet and the benefits of the platform would be readily apparent.

      Also, people could try it without kicking out a big chunk of cash for a tablet. They could try the apps, the app market, and so on. If it's good, that's all it takes.

      I do believe this is what HP was talking about when they said last year they were going to ship WebOS with every PC.
      symbolset
      • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

        @symbolset People can try it now without spending cash. There's no cost to become a WebOS developer or download the development tools, and now you don't even have to register to download the WebOS emulator, which is easy to install. The Linux Action Show folks were able to cover WebOS without having the hardware by downloading and running the emulator and showing off its features, including being able to install apps in it.
        jgm2
    • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

      @dalspartan
      I actually agree. Open sourcing wouldn't be the answer, because it would end up as the same mish-mash of disparate pieces we have with Gingerbread.

      Also, I disagree with the article. I think it is brilliant that they are using enthusiast hackers as another resource to improve the OS. That gives me hope that they will head in a direction which most users actually want rather than putting on blinders and plodding toward eventual doom.
      BillDem
    • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

      @dalspartan
      "Look what happened to Android."

      HP wishes "what happened to Android" would happen to WebOS. Hundreds of millions of devices shipped, 550,000 new activations daily. Turn off the tech blog echo chamber and turn on reality. Android is a winner.
      businessandpolitics
    • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

      I agree completely. I bought my Touchpad to "play with." I've had it for two days and all ready understand how to use Preware. On the desktop side, I'm a linux user, and I do change distros when one gets it better than the other. Hence, if HP doesn't open source the WebOS to encourage development of WebOS apps, I'll be reconfiguring my Touchpad to an open source linux box (without even bothering with dual boot.) In time I expect that USB port to be capable of communicating directly with external drives (to include my camera,) and USB ethernet cards (because WiFi still sucks in high RFI enviornments.)
      dixonhoyle
  • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

    the idea that apple is NOT using the jailbreak community to improve iOS is insane. ask anyone who has jailbroken their phone, and they will tell you that jailbreak has MADE the iphone what it is today. all the best features are taken from enhancements first made by the jailbreak community.

    also, webOSinternals has, from their very inception, said that palm/HP was always welcome to take any of their code and use it as they see fit. they've adopted some great enhancements this way, and HP rewarded them with a $10,000 server for it.
    samsonphoton
    • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

      @samsonphoton That's because Apple blocks those innovative apps so they can steal the technology for themselves.
      slickjim
      • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

        @Peter Perry

        True but the really need to [b]pick up the pace dammit!![/b]

        ;)
        rhonin
      • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

        @Peter Perry
        Oh please, name one.
        .DeusExMachina.
      • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

        @Peter Perry Like what exactly? And don't bleat about the new notification system in iOS 5 because Apple hired the guy who made the original jailbreak tweak for it.
        athynz
      • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

        @deusexmachina?
        The new upcoming Wi-Fi Sync feature in iOS 5 is an exact copycat (by name, purpose, and even the icon for that matter) of the already existing one on Cydia :p

        EDIT:

        This goes to you too athynz; Apple has always been stealing features/tweaks from the Jailbreak community and claiming them as new features on iOS X. Besides, what you yourself mentioned is an example, why do you think they hired the developer in the first place :|
        MrElectrifyer
      • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

        @ MrElectrifyer
        First and foremost, wireless sync is not some technological marvel that stumped the best engineers at Apple. Apple chose not to include it for a number of reasons, including security, and data retention.
        Also, since they hired the developer, again, BY DEFINITION, they are not stealing anything.

        I'd say nice try, but, um, it wasn't.
        .DeusExMachina.
      • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

        @deusexmachina So what excuse you trying to turn to now? They didn't include it in earlier versions....so what? They're including it in the upcoming version and that's the point; they got it from the jailbreak community.

        Better luck in bringing up nonsense excuses fanboy.
        MrElectrifyer
      • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

        @MrElectrifier<br>It has nothing to do with excuses, it is about basic facts and logic, something of which you seem incapable.<br>Just because it was not in the stock OS originally, but did exist as an option to the jailbreak community does NOT mean Apple stole it. It is an obvious feature, that is easily implemented. Again, Apple chose not to in the first releases, and has now deemed it appropriate to do so. There is NO proof it was stolen. Period. Do you really need a formal logic proof laid out for you?<br>And again, as they HIRED the developer, it is not stealing. Per se.
        .DeusExMachina.
    • RE: HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it.

      @samsonphoton

      Although there are a lot of cool jailbreak mods available, it is the idea that Apple relies on these mods that is insane. Considering that only a small percentage of the iOS community has even heard of jailbreaking, let alone knows about GreenPois0n, Redsn0w, or even how to do it, your primary point is simply nonsensical.
      .DeusExMachina.