HP: Stop the FUD and show us the real webOS source.

HP: Stop the FUD and show us the real webOS source.

Summary: HP's CEO Meg Whitman has expressed her concerns about Android going "closed source" post Google's acquisition of Motorola. But is this legitimate concern or simply FUD?


Over the last several months, we've seen indications of a good faith effort by Hewlett-Packard to become a positive contributor to the open source software development community, in the form of a commitment by the company to release their webOS operating system as open source under the Apache license.

We all know why HP went the open source route, because it couldn't find anyone willing to purchase the webOS and Palm assets for a price that came even close to what they paid for it in 2010.

HP spent approximately 1.2 billion dollars on the acquisition, and the only thing they had to show for it was a fiasco of a product launch, two failed CEOs, thousands of layoffs, Wall Street angst and hundreds of thousands of liquidated TouchPads.

So the alternative was to try to build a future ecosystem for the software, in the hopes that continued development under an Open Source model might spark new products and new uses for webOS.

Everyone in the open source community, myself included, is excited about the prospects of a "alternative" open source mobile operating system. We're happy that HP is joining our extended family.

But HP still has a lot to learn about community relations and enticing developers to work with their code.

I was more than a bit disappointed to hear that at their Global Partner Conference this week in Las Vegas, HP's President and CEO, Meg Whitman, had decided to use what amounts to old-school trash talk in order to bolster further interest in webOS.

"We decided to contribute webOS to the open source community and this will take three to four years to play out". "I think there is room for another operating system. iOS is great but it is a closed system. I think that Android may end up as a closed system because of [Google's] relationship with Motorola."

We call this type of trash talk Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Also affectionately known as FUD.

Now, one could argue that Whitman was simply speaking off the cuff to a captive audience and didn't really think about what she was saying at the time.

However, anyone who knows anything about the history of open source contributions by dozens of corporate entities would find this accusation that Google would reneg on its commitments, after demonstrating so many years of leadership in this space to be laughable.

Heck, Google close-sourcing Android on a permanent basis would be suicidal for the platform. Much of the reason why Android is attractive to developers in the first place is because of its open source nature.

Before HP can accuse Google of the possibility that it may close source one of its most important open source efforts, one must examine the open source track record of both companies and how they compare to their industry peers.

First, besides the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) which is probably Google's most high-profile open source project, there is also Chromium, the open source version of the Chrome browser, which has quickly become one of the most popular web browsers used on the Internet on multiple computing platforms. And of course Chrome OS.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Google has, through its Google Code initiative, released over 20 million lines of source code through over 900 open source projects. As such, it is one of the largest contributors of its own code to the community, not to mention being a direct contributor to a number of 3rd-party open source projects.

Google also hosts approximately 250,000 3rd-party open source projects under Google Project Hosting and has sponsored the Summer of Code program since 2005, in order to foster open source contributions by student developers aged 18 and older.

So if you really examine Google's open source efforts closely, it's hard to see anything other than the company being a model community citizen and taking a continued leadership role in Open Source.

So why would Whitman say such a ridiculous statement given Google's impeccable track record? Perhaps because she wanted to play on the fears that the last time that Google had a major Android release, Honeycomb, it withheld the source code from the community and distributed it only to its OEM device manufacturers, until the successive release, Ice Cream Sandwich.

I have no defense at all for what Google did. Like many Open Source advocates, I was appalled by it and a lot of other industry folks were extremely concerned when it happened.

Google claims to have its reasons for doing it, and although it has never made completely clear what those reasons were, many in the community believe it was done as a stopgap effort to prevent further platform fragmentation until Ice Cream Sandwich, which would unify the smartphone and tablet code bases could be released.

So yes, Google screwed up with Honeycomb, and they probably should have made their intentions much clearer about what they were trying to accomplish.

Google's lazziez-faire and somewhat disjointed approach to its handling of the Android project has raised numerous concerns about platform fragmentation, particularly by vendors that have modified it for use in their own products and haven't addressed user concerns to update them with the latest code base.

Android has also been subject to actual forking efforts by companies like Amazon which simply take the code and use it for their own purposes (such as in the Kindle Fire) without actually participating in the overall community itself.

But at the end of the day, the proof is in the code, and the company has demonstrated that Android as an open source project is very much alive and well, as can be seen from the release of Ice Cream Sandwich to the AOSP back in December.

But what of HP's own Open Source history?

HP has, in the last 10 years, contributed and sponsored various open source projects but primarily only those which directly benefit the use of their own hardware platforms, with very few exceptions.

It should be noted, however, that HP's overall contributions in the last five years have slowed down considerably compared to where they were about ten years ago.

Quite a few HP-sponsored projects on the aforementioned list are small and have low participation and maintenance rates, with the exception of Apache, Samba and CUPS, which are large, cross-vendor sponsored projects.

As a Linux Kernel code contributor, HP was among the least active of companies that had board of director seats on the Linux Foundation.

In 2009, the last time statistics were released by the Linux Foundation about code commits, the company didn't even make the top 12 list. As far as kernel participation, HP was a statistical anomaly compared to the others.

It should also be noted HP does not currently officially occupy a board seat on that not for profit organization (of which it was a founding member) which is considered among the most important in the Open Source community.

Since its participation in the founding of the Linux Foundation, HP's Platinum member status has since been demoted to Gold, which puts it at the same contribution level as AMD, Cisco, Motorola, and yes, Google.

The last time HP actually contributed a major piece of code that could be considered hardware or platform agnostic to the community at large is when it announced its donation of the AdvFS (Advanced File System) from DEC's legacy Tru64 UNIX under GPLv2 on the SourceForge web site back in 2008.

webOS would be the first major release of code from the company in a number of years that can be considered to be completely hardware-agnostic or does not directly benefit HP in some manner.

So where's the code? So far, HP has released Enyo, which is a platform-agnostic Javascript framework that can be used to write application software for webOS, web browsers and possibly other mobile and desktop operating systems, should developer interest in the environment take up.

HP has also recently announced the formation of a new open source mobile browser project for webOS, named Isis, which will be Webkit-based, like Google's recently released Chrome port for Android.

The current plan, according to HP, is over the coming months, to release various components that comprise webOS, with a full platform release that is due in September.

If all goes according to plan, developers will have a full open webOS code release to play with at the end of the summer, and then there will (hopefully) be device ports and all sorts of good things that come with an initial major open source mobile OS release of that sort.

But until then, HP really needs to stop talking trash about other members of our community and instead learn from their example. And show us the source.

Does HP's use of FUD against Google reflect well on its own open source track record? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Hewlett-Packard, Google, Open Source, Operating Systems


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.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Respect for the readers

    Hallelujah! A ZDNet author who proofreads his articles! Thank you, sir.
    Robert Hahn
  • As great an admirer of HP

    .. as i once was, i think recent comments from Meg Whitman are more than a tad precious. Instead of focusing on making sure WebOS doesn't tank, here she is bad mouthing another major contributor to F/OSS in Google. These shenanigans from Whitman & co. are even bordering on an insult to the memory of the late, great Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard - who you can bet never stooped to petty gutter sniping of industry competitors. My, how times have surely changed for the worse.<br><br>Frankly, it's not as though HP is in any position to criticize any other platform ecosystem / platform creator. Whitman would do well to shut up, concentrate on getting HP's own house in order and stop 'trash talking', as Perlow rightly puts it.<br><br>When WebOS is leading the tablet / mobile OS stakes and is butt kicking iOS and Android she'll have a point ... right now HP is straight out, blowing hot air and empty rhetoric.<br><br>The HP Way, Tenet #3:<br><br>[i]" We conduct our business with uncompromising integrity. "[/i]<br><br>... How exactly, Meg Whitman, does spreading FUD and innuendo about competitors, dragging the memory and reputation of HP's founders (.. let alone the Business), further through the sewers, adhere to HP Tenet #3 ?!? Shame on you Ms. Whitman.
  • Yawn

    Most developers don't care whether an OS is open source or not. Far more relevant is how prevalent it is in the market place and whether or not developing for it is going to allow them to make money. Only a handful of anti-capitalist zealots are concerned with the availability of the OS source code. Why do you think iOS development is growing so rapidly?
    • Exactly. As long as the users stay, the developers will stay too.

      @levieuxmagicien And isnt it funny that Amazon takes Android code, and then uses it to generate profit for itself.
    • RE: HP: Stop the FUD and show us the real webOS source.

      @levieuxmagicien Most develpers dont even know what the OS is. For them it is more important that what is their used system programs and libraries and software platforms. Those markets (not OS) rules their profit.

      Open Source operating system (like Linux what is GPLv2 and can not be closed or changed) are better for everyone, for users, developers and manufacturers.
      The XNU operating system used in iOS is as well 100% Open Source, it is licensed with Apple Open Source license what is accepted by OSI and FSF.
      (The small modifications for XNU in iOS are closed but you can download whole XNU operating system freely from Apples servers without even belonging to Apple developer program).

      What matters for developers, is not operating system, but system programs, libraries and software platforms. And Apples offerings are great as well with development tools. And why you think Android is growing so rapidly? Because you have as well great development tools, you have great software platform and you can see all codes if needed, not just specs but how the code actually WORKS.
  • I don't think her concerns are FUD but legitimate.

    After all there are and should be a lot of concern about the Google/Moto merger/buyout. One being what if Google simply spends the next few pumping money into Moto so it can continue to make Android devices? What can other OEM's do to compete? After all one of the advantages of sticking through the tough times is the very real possibility that competitors can or will not make it to the next round and open up possibilities for your company. Right now Android devices are in a similar situation that PC's have been in for a decade or more now and that is a low margin price war. So every factor that effects the bottom line has to be taken into effect and the Google/Moto thing should be very concerning for others who very well might not have the resources to compete and or last in this market. And since there are other options like Windows phones give priority and development dollars to the alternative.

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
  • RE: HP: Stop the FUD and show us the real webOS source.

    With the EBay-Skype thing on her resume, and her tone-deaf handling of her gubernatorial campaign, and HP's visible flailing about over the last few years, Ms Whitman's remarks may not have been so much mindful as reflective of the way HP is running on legacy and fumes. I go back to the Mary-Jo Foley post after the Apotheker firing wherein she says that while the Board liked the direction he was taking the company, Apotheker couldn't convince the world that it looked like a reason to buy HP stock. <br><br>To say "We're in good position if [all these things good and bad] that others do." is rather passive. Though we are thinking that her entire presentation was encapsulated in this one point, which gives it undue value.<br><br>But Google has done its flailing, too. The regulatory approvals have just come in and so the deal will shortly close and we'll see what Google's intent is. If it was just about patents, they shut down r&d, maybe TouchPad the products that were on the 2012 roadmap. Bring them out, just in case they are a hit, and remainder quickly if not. If the purchase was about taking direct responsibility for the best Android user experience, then to be a ongoing, thriving enterprise, they will have to give MM some secret sauce or 6-9 month exclusivity for os features. From the OEM points-of-view, Google is now a competitor (whether or not it holds any thing back), Microsoft has a viable alternative and is putting dollars into their effort, and the OEMs give Redmond some money regardless of what os they choose. I don't see a middle path. Either Google goes bold, irritates its partners, and does something to differentiate Motorola Mobility and build their subsidiary or they shutter it. Letting it flounder as a me-too Android phone with maybe a tad more polish is something Google could have done by only buying the patents. (Though Icahn and Motorola were looking to keeping the ip and the production joined at the hip. It was a hope chest with attached albatross.)
  • Google once 'do no evil' now syphons $billions to a tax haven

    What price commitment?<br><br>In the end, does it matter whether most of Android does not stay open? To some purists, maybe, but since the only real way we ever see the OS is when OEMs have branched it for their own hardware, it is much like Windows CE in that regard = OEM's OS.
    • RE: HP: Stop the FUD and show us the real webOS source.

      Actually, it does. Being open was one of the strengths of Android. Mobile manufacturers could take the code and modify it to suit their own hardware designs. The important factor here, being open. There are even other initiatives that could create a hype for Android, like the creation of custom ROMs like CyanogenMod. These efforts have their own contribution for the ecosystem. The important element here again, being open.

      The simple factor here is that Andoid's open nature has a role in propelling its market share in the first place. Had it been closed from the start, that would've been a different story. Right now if Google moves to close Android's source code, I don't think it can handle the backlash.
      • But IOS isnt open and its pulling in tons of profit for Apple.

        @JOB83 So being "Open" isnt really necessary--it just needs to be open enough.
  • Much of Android IS closed source already

    Yes, there really is a reason so many have to "jail break" their devices to use them the way they want. The distribution channel (carriers) have made much of the code closed source and is untochable.
    • RE: HP: Stop the FUD and show us the real webOS source.

      @NoAxToGrind Yes, but don't blame Android but those carriers and manufacturers who makes those binary blobs. Google made the problem at first place by using Apache and BSD licenses instead GPLv3. Even that Linux operating system in Android is GPLv2 licensed, it allows some binary blobs to be used while GPLv3 not. If Google would have chosen differently, Android would not have success while its openess would be protected.

      What needs to be done, is to demand that carriers and OEM's understand that if hardware fails, it is not right to say that reason for that was custom software system, unless they can proof that custom software system were the cause. Then if the custom software system fails but the hardware works, it is users iche to fix it or pay someone else to fix it by installing a original software system back.
  • ...Really?

    It takes time to open-source an operating system, the webOS engineers can't just upload everything as-is to GitHub if it contains licensed code, and guess what? webOS contains licensed code. They have to go through and replace anything licensed with an open-source or original alternative. Saying 'show us the code' isn't going to make that process any faster.
    And talk about leaping blindly to conclusions. "Android MAY become a closed system" sounds an awful lot like speculation to me, assuming that statement was an attempt at spreading FUD stinks of sensationalism. Oh, and how long has Whitman been CEO of HP? Roughly 4 months. Holding her accountable for HP's past actions is illogical and looks to me like another attempt at shock writing.

    2/5 Poor journalism. Would not read again.
    • Maybe HP should actually CREATE a useful product around WebOS

      @AsifHussain1 ..instead of waiting for others to do it for them.
    • RE: HP: Stop the FUD and show us the real webOS source.

      @AsifHussain1 How it would take time when Linux operating system used in WebOS is already GPLv2 licensed and so on Open Source? HP could not close Linux operating system, they only had change to close code what they itself wrote to own softwares for WebOS or what it had copyright.

      WebOS (or Android) ain't new operating systems, that is marketing bull*ith. Both of them use Linux operating system and it is GPLv2 licensed from the beginning (well, nearly from beginning, after Linus used its own license at first).

      No one, not even Linus can change Linux license from GPLv2 to other unless they get permissions from all those whos written code is in Linux. As it is copyright owners job to give that permission to change license. And Linux operating system has copyrighted code from tens of thousands developers... It is a nightmare if someone starts that task.
  • RE: HP: Stop the FUD and show us the real webOS source.

    According to knowledgeable people inside HP with whom I have talked recently, they say essentially the same as you in regard reasons HP is "open sourcing" WebOS since no one is willing to give them any worthwhile offer.

    They also feel, from the meetings attended with Meg Whitman that HP really doesn't care about the Open Source Community, and expects Apache to bear the full burden of development and support so that HP can then concentrate on benefits of any real worthwhile developments that WebOS can bring to the company.

    If they act like Microsoft, HP will make financial contributions to Apache directed only to areas of WebOS development that helps HP specifically.
    • RE: HP: Stop the FUD and show us the real webOS source.


      Sounds about like Meg Whitman's style. During her tenure at feeBay she also turned them in a direction of leeching off the efforts of others, and gouging their customers & vendors in order to inflate their rapidly sagging bottom line. Sounds like she's a perfect match for the modern-day HP. But having seen the way ebay treated their customers under Whitman's influence, I don't think I'd EVER want to do business with HP again.
    • RE: HP: Stop the FUD and show us the real webOS source.

      @wanderson These don't sound like very knowledgeable people, unless you're speculating on the whole Apache point -- webOS is not even going to the Apache foundation. The various components released so far have been released under the Apache license. BIG difference.
  • blah

    Pointing out something that is potentially quite likely, and a complete unknown, is somehow trash talking? What planet are you living on Jason?<br><br>You're interpreting "closed system" incorrectly here -- The insinuation, is that Google-Motorola will have things that no one else will have. Motorola will not only become a 'preferred' platform, it may become the only platform that even matters to Google. <br><br>Laissez-faire is the spelling, by the way. And you use it incorrectly.<br><br>Enyo is in use in over a dozen multi-platform apps NOW, that are currently available, on virtually every platform's marketplaces. There are hundreds if not over a thousand Enyo apps available on the webOS catalog now. Many developers are awaiting the updated version of all the components before porting.<br><br>You also missed completely on "HP has also recently announced the formation of a new open source mobile browser project for webOS, named Isis, which will be Webkit-based, like Googles recently released Chrome port for Android.". HP didn't just announce it -- they released it. The entire thing, as well as all of the code that attaches directly to it in webOS.<br><br>So, if you -really- examine Google's open source efforts, you'll find that the only reason they open source things is because either (a) they don't want them (see Wave) or (b) because they want to take advantage of all the developers who will work for them for free. <br><br>Summer of Code is not about being nice to everyone -- it's about Google getting a whole lot of something for practically nothing.<br><br>ZD has always been known in the past as being the guys in bed with IBM, but I guess now you're licking Google instead, eh?
  • hmm..

    ok, last reply didn't show up, not sure if it just takes some time or what ..

    also, re: Meg Whitman. You people apparently aren't aware of the fact that Meg carried eBay from a handful of employees into one of the largest businesses in the entire world. Her political campaign aside, she is a very astute business person, and knows business probably better than everyone on this forum, employees included, combined.

    I don't think there's one comment on here or in the original article that actually comes from someone who knows what they are talking about.