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HP To Keep webOS Alive By Making It Open Source

Posted Dec 9, 2011 by Chris Velazco (@chrisvelazco)
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Well, there we have it. After weeks of deliberation, HP CEO Meg Whitman has just announced to all of the company’s employees that HP will make webOS’s underlying code available under an open-source license.

Before I go any further, I’d like to take this chance to applaud HP on making the right decision: they managed to make some lemonade after all.

According to a company-wide email from Whitman, making webOS open source “is the best way to ensure the benefits of webOS are accessible to the largest possible ecosystem.” A new release from the company goes into slightly more detail: HP will help “accelerate the open development of the webOS platform,” and “will be an active participant and investor in the project.” The rest is up to webOS developers, who are now able to pick up where the personal computing giant left off.

While the news will certainly be welcomed by webOS enthusiasts (myself included), let’s not forget that HP sunk over $3 billion dollars into the webOS experiment before ultimately giving it away for free. Still, I’m sure HP has picked up some much-needed brownie points from webOS users whose devices have suddenly been given a new lease on life.

Of course, with that shift toward open source, drastic changes will almost definitely be made to the company’s existing webOS team. AllThingsD reports that no official word has yet been handed down about staff rearrangements, but webOS’s smaller role in the company’s future means less manpower will be devoted to it.

Meanwhile, HP has remained quiet on the hardware front. After former CEO Leo Apotheker give standalone webOS hardware the axe, it was widely rumored that HP would find a home for the wayward operating system on their scores of printers. It’ll be interesting to see if the landscape shifts now that third-party hardware vendors have access to yet another open source OS, but for now we can rest assured that webOS will indeed live on in one form or another.

And hey, now you should feel a bit more comfortable about picking up some of the $99 TouchPads HP is throwing on eBay this Sunday — they should have a bright future after all.

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