HP to keep webOS alive as an open-source project

After months of deliberation, HP has finally decided the fate of webOS... and it's not quite what we expected. In an announcement posted earlier today, HP says it plans to "contribute the webOS software to the open source community" while at the same time remaining "active in the development and support" of the mobile operating system.

The announcement briefly outlines HP's vision, and it invites developers and customers to chime in on the official HP blog. Here's the plan, according to HP:

HP will make the underlying code of webOS available under an open source license. Developers, partners, HP engineers and other hardware manufacturers can deliver ongoing enhancements and new versions into the marketplace.

HP will engage the open source community to help define the charter of the open source project under a set of operating principles:

  • The goal of the project is to accelerate the open development of the webOS platform
  • HP will be an active participant and investor in the project
  • Good, transparent and inclusive governance to avoid fragmentation
  • Software will be provided as a pure open source project
HP also 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.

What's left unsaid is almost bigger news. From this announcement, we can surmise that HP failed to find a buyer for webOS—despite persistent rumors that Amazon could be interested. We can also assume that, although HP aborted plans exit the PC market, it hasn't gone back on its decision to quit making webOS phones and tablets.

Today's news also hints that HP expects some other hardware makers to pick up where it left off. Considering iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7 have established themselves as dominant players in a crowded and competitive field, I don't see a ton of room for webOS to squeeze in. Perhaps webOS will find its way into devices other than phones and tablets, though.

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