HP goes open source with WebOS

Hewlett-Packard to continue working on software acquired from Palm with hopes other hardware makers will embrace operating system over Google's Android, but withdraws from smartphone race.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Hewlett-Packard (HP) has finally decided the fate of its WebOS software, choosing to convert the mobile operating system (OS) into an open source project with hopes that other hardware makers will work on the "remarkable platform". Challenges remain in releasing the open source codes in a timely fashion, as well as changing out portions of the codes that were licensed from Microsoft and Oracle to open source versions, a report noted.

In a statement released late-Friday, HP said it would "contribute WebOS to the open source community" and continue to be active in developing and supporting the mobile OS. "By combining the innovative webOS platform with the development power of the open source community, there is the opportunity to significantly improve applications and Web services for the next generation of devices."

The decision comes after months of deliberation over what it should do with the software that it had acquired from Palm in 2010 for US$1.2 billion.

According to Bloomberg's report Saturday, WebOS will be offered under a license that allows hardware makers and software developers to access its source code and use it in their products, but requires companies using it to contribute their changes back to the project.

HP CEO Meg Whitman said in an interview with Bloomberg: "The thing we recognized about WebOS is it really is a remarkable platform. It was not the right thing to just shut it down. It shouldn't be wasted."

She added that the company will likely release new WebOS-based hardware devices in 2013, but not smartphones. "I think we're out of the smartphone business," Whitman said.

At the same time, the company will also be working to replace portions of WebOS's codes licensed from companies--including Microsoft and Oracle--with open source ones, said Sam Greenblatt, HP's CTO for advanced technologies. These licensed software include Redmond's digital rights management and Oracle's Berkeley DB database, he added.

HP had announced in August it would discontinue its WebOS operations, specifically the TouchPad and WebOS phones, but halted the decision after then-CEO Leo Apothekar was ousted and Whitman was brought in to take over the IT company's reins.

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