HP is to open-source its WebOS mobile operating system, the company has announced.
The company said on Friday that giving away the WebOS software, which has been used in the TouchPad tablet and Pre smartphone line, would be made available under an as-yet-undefined open source licence. HP itself will continue to be an "active participant and investor in the project", it said.
"WebOS is the only platform designed from the ground up to be mobile, cloud-connected and scalable," recently-installed HP chief Meg Whitman said in a statement. "By contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices."
HP said it wants the open source community to help it define a charter for WebOS, and added that it "will contribute ENYO, the application framework for WebOS, to the community in the near future along with a plan for the remaining components of the user space".
WebOS was originally released in 2009 by Palm as a replacement for the old Palm OS. As a smartphone operating system, it was distinctive and mildly successful — enough so to prompt three generations of Pre handsets. However, it did not make a significant dent in the success of the Apple's iPhone or the rapid rise of Google's Android.
HP, which was at the time under the stewardship of Mark Hurd, bought Palm in 2010, largely for the OS. HP said at the time that it wanted to use WebOS in netbooks and tablets, as well as mobile phones. Hurd even suggested it could be used to power touchscreen printers.
By early 2011, Hurd had been replaced by Leo Apotheker, who wanted to put WebOS into PCs alongside Windows. By August, Apotheker's tenure was in disarray, and HP decided to kill off its WebOS hardware products.
Apotheker himself was gone within little more than a month, with Whitman his successor. There were subsequently reports that HP was trying to sell off the OS, but it appears no-one bit. The winding-down of the WebOS unit has also hit HP's financials.