Palm had a potential winner in webOS, the mobile operating system that truly could have been awesome. Unfortunately, a series of missteps led to webOS falling out of relevance as Android and iOS raced to the front of the pack, so now all we can do is look back at what might have been. Oh, and make no mistake, webOS is pretty much history at this point -- so much so that HP announced plans to shut down its App Catalog and cloud services support for remaining webOS devices effective January 15, 2015. For the three or four of you who this affects, mark your calendars.
Everyone who purchased one of Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad tablets last year during the company's infamous fire sale can finally feel vindicated in doing so. That's because the first beta release of Open webOS ships today, HP announced in a blog post. It's been a long eight months since HP first announced it would contribute the webOS software to the open source community, essentially handing the reins over to third-party developers.
Remember Hewlett-Packard's ill-fated TouchPad tablet? It didn't last long on the market, though it did enjoy a flurry of sales when HP discontinued the tablet and drastically reduced the price. Since then, people have been hacking and modding the slate so as not to be stuck with webOS, and now TouchPad owners are able to get a taste of Google's Jelly Bean build (Android 4.1).
Former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein has officially left HP, effective today. Rubinstein became CEO of Palm in 2009 and led the company’s push with webOS, eventually selling the company to HP in 2010. When asked if he had any immediate plans, Rubinstein said he was going to take a well-deserved rest after working on webOS for the last few years. And what a last few years they have been.
True to its word, HP has officially started releasing the webOS source code. The company said late last year that it would open source the mostly-failed platform so the community could continue to work on it. HP itself has pledged to continue contributing to the project as well. Today’s release included the Enyo application framework, and the rest of the platform will be released over the coming months, with a few surprises along the way.
Somewhere out there, perhaps in an alternate timeline or in another universe millions of light years away, Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad tablet is the one to beat after living up to its potential as an iPad killer. But in this timeline and in this universe, the TouchPad is an obsolete relic that was pulled from the market almost as quickly as it appeared, and the future of webOS lies in the hands of open source developers. Could things have worked out any differently?
A new report from VentureBeat sheds some light on the HP decision making process that ended with webOS being open sourced a few weeks ago. Sources within HP say that the company was asking for a whopping $1.2 billion for its Palm and webOS assets. For those of you keeping score, that is exactly what HP paid for Palm back in April of 2010.
Praise tech Jesus, webOS still has a pulse! The mobile OS seemingly doomed to a cold eternity in a digital graveyard has been granted an open source reprieve. Great! Only question is, what comes next?
Obviously webOS is a platform built for smartphones and tablets, but HP making it open source means people can find some weird uses for the little OS that could. How would webOS be best put to use? We already know we'll probably see another tablet from HP. They've conceded that much and we like that. A lot. But we've got some other ideas for how webOS could be used.
If Hewlett-Packard were a living, breathing entity, it might have a future in politics where it's perfectly acceptable (or least expected) to flip-flop on key issues. You know, things like whether or not to forge ahead with its PC business, the $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm only to later flip webOS to the open source crowd, and the whole TouchPad fiasco. And did we mention HP is once again interested in building webOS tablets?
When HP named Meg Whitman the new CEO earlier this year, she wasted little time in firmly reversing the course set by Leo Apotheker, her predecessor, and declaring that the company would be keeping its PC business after all. WebOS, however, was a different matter. Whitman’s dragged her feet making a call about the black sheep operating system, leading to intense speculation. Will she sell WebOS? Kill it? Keep it? Turns out the answer as D) None of the above. Today, HP announced that WebOS is going open source.