HP to offer webOS as open-source software

Dec 09, 2011 By RACHEL METZ , AP Technology Writer

(AP) -- It may be one of the technology world's most expensive efforts to give something away: Hewlett-Packard Co. said Friday that it's making its webOS mobile system available as open-source software that anyone can use and modify freely.

HP snagged the intuitive webOS software when it paid $1.8 billion in 2010 for . in what became a failed effort to revive the flailing smartphone pioneer. HP said it still plans to develop and support webOS.

First released on the Palm Pre smartphone in 2009, webOS ultimately ran on several smartphones. In July, HP also used it on its , the TouchPad.

The webOS software was marked by its multitasking capabilities and the ability to view open apps as "cards" that you can slide across the screen, tap to enlarge or flick to dismiss. Initially, it was generally well-reviewed by technology critics.

The mobile devices never caught on with consumers, though, many of whom were more enticed by Apple Inc.'s and and smartphones running Google Inc.'s Android software. Developers also weren't that interested in creating apps for such a small audience.

HP hopes that by offering it to the open-source community, more will be developed. The move could also mean that other consumer-electronics manufacturers would decide to make devices that use the software.

analyst Frank Gillett called HP's decision creative. He suspects companies would have been interested in buying webOS from HP, but he's not sure how much they would have wanted to pay for it. This way, HP gets to make a limited investment in webOS' future and keep a hand in .

"If you decide you can't afford to get in the game fully with both feet, absolutely at least keep your options open," he said.

HP's decision is not unlike what AOL did with the Netscape browser years ago. After losing to Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Netscape was released to the open-source community. Its successor, Firefox, is now one of IE's leading rivals.

also has seen success letting developers use its open-source Android software.

The future of webOS had been uncertain since August, when HP said it would stop making tablet computers and smartphones - part of a blundered announcement by then-CEO Leo Apotheker, who also said then that HP was looking into putting its PC business up for sale.

In September, Apotheker was fired and replaced by former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. Whitman said in late October that HP wouldn't be selling off its personal computer business after all, but said then that the future of webOS was still unclear.

Todd Bradley, the head of HP's PC unit, said at the time that it was "fair to say Apple got a great jump-start in the tablet space" and HP was trying to figure out its own best approach. He said HP was focused on building a tablet that uses Microsoft Corp.'s upcoming Windows 8 software.

He added that consumers shouldn't be keeping an eye out for a TouchPad 2, but that the company would "clearly look at what's the right path forward for WebOS." With Friday's announcement, it appears HP believes it has found it.

Shares of HP, which is based in Palo Alto, rose 24 cents to finish trading at $27.90. The stock rose 22 cents to $28.12 in after-hours trading.

Explore further: Technology to help people with disabilities to learn and communicate

5 /5 (4 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hewlett-Packard begins Palm unit layoffs

Sep 20, 2011

Hewlett-Packard said Tuesday that it has begun laying off workers as part of its move to give up on the webOS mobile operating system it got when it bought Palm.

HP says it will keep personal computer unit

Oct 27, 2011

Hewlett-Packard Co. has decided against spinning off or selling its PC division - a plan first brought to light in August by the technology conglomerate's now former CEO.

HP's webOS moves out of tablet foxhole into appliance mode

Aug 18, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- HP is set to spread the wings of its operating system for its smartphones and TouchPad tablet, webOS, and plant it into a wider technology space of an OS for cars and household appliances. HP’s webOS ...

HP's TouchPad going on sale in US on July 1

Jun 09, 2011

US computer giant Hewlett-Packard announced on Thursday that its rival to Apple's hot-selling iPad, the HP TouchPad, will go on sale in the United States on July 1.

HP plans one last production run for the TouchPad

Aug 31, 2011

Hewlett-Packard said Tuesday it plans one last production run of the TouchPad, which has become a hot seller following a price cut and the announcement the company was killing the tablet computer.

Recommended for you

BPG image format judged awesome versus JPEG

Dec 17, 2014

If these three letters could talk, BPG, they would say something like "Farewell, JPEG." Better Portable Graphics (BPG) is a new image format based on HEVC and supported by browsers with a small Javascript ...

Atari's 'E.T.' game joins Smithsonian collection

Dec 15, 2014

One of the "E.T." Atari game cartridges unearthed this year from a heap of garbage buried deep in the New Mexico desert has been added to the video game history collection at the Smithsonian.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

fmfbrestel
not rated yet Dec 10, 2011
Sweet. Open source software is good for everyone. Drives innovation forward. WebOS and android can start sharing innovations, each helping the other with shortcomings. In turn this forces the proprietary segments to innovate faster to justify their cost while at the same time decreasing the chances of software patent lawsuits.

Great move by HP.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.