Analyst: WebOS won't gain traction despite open source route

Mobile operating system, which market share remains small, unlikely to overtake other rivals and hardware vendors will find it hard to justify developing for small ecosystem, notes IDC analyst.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

Even with Hewlett-Packard's decision to make WebOS open source, the mobile operating system (OS) is unlikely to gain traction due to its small market share and intensive competition from rival OSes.

According to Melissa Chau, research manager for client devices at IDC Asia-Pacific, even prior to the open source announcement by HP, WebOS did not have much market share so it is unlikely it will dominate the market in the future.

And while there is a possibility a third major mobile OS may emerge, after Apple iOS and Google Android, Chau told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview that WebOS's current market share is "too far down" to gain traction.

Instead, she noted that the third OS would likely be Research in Motion's Blackberry OS or Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.

She added that it was unlikely WebOS would overtake Windows Phone 7 because of the partnership between Nokia and Microsoft. While the future of this partnership is still uncertain, since Nokia's first Windows-powered devices were made available only last weekend, Chau reiterated that WebOS will not upset the trend as it does not have a huge market potential.

The IDC analyst explained that there is currently a "big fight for developers" among mobile OS ecosystem. In this landscape, WebOS faces a "chicken and egg" problem as hardware vendors will find it hard to justify building devices for an OS that few developers are building on, while developers will not want to work on an ecosystem that does not have hardware vendors.

With Android already gaining traction, Chau said there is little incentive for hardware vendors to support another OS.

Prior to HP's decision make WebOS open source, analysts told ZDNet Asia it would make sense for the tech giant to keep and leverage the platform as a tablet OS.

While Chau expects WebOS to gain little market traction, another analyst believes HP will benefit from making the OS open source. In his tweet, Beau Skonieczny, research analyst for computing practice at Technology Business Research (TBR), said "licensing WebOS will help accelerate HP's effort to improve margins".

Hardware vendors Dell, Lenovo and HTC had no comment on whether they will adopt WebOS for future devices.

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