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HP Businesses Open Source News

HP Cuts Staff As WebOS Transitions To Opensource 64

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the replaced-by-fifteen-year-olds-with-free-time dept.
alphadogg writes "Hewlett-Packard has cut 275 jobs in its webOS group, as part of its strategy to turn the operating system over to the open-source community, according to IDG News Service. HP said last year that it would stop making devices that use the operating system which was developed by Palm for phones and tablets, and later decided to release the software under the Apache License 2.0. As webOS continues the transition to open-source software, HP no longer needs many of the engineering and other related positions that it required before, the company said in a statement. 'This creates a smaller and more nimble team that is well-equipped to deliver an open source webOS and sustain HP's commitment to the software over the long term,' it added."
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HP Cuts Staff As WebOS Transitions To Opensource

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @08:44AM (#39196457)

    Further proof that Open Source kills engineering jobs and depresses wages.

    • by captbob2002 (411323) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @08:49AM (#39196495)
      I expect that HP would have let those folks go regardless - they had already killed the product.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        They weren't let go, they were Communitized.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @08:54AM (#39196541) Journal

      Further proof that Open Source kills engineering jobs and depresses wages.

      It actually seems to cut both ways, albeit one way visibly, the other less visibly.

      Given that 'Open Source' is(among other things) the trendy way to put a product on deathwatch, it does have some correlation with job losses. Company X decides to take Product Y out behind the woodshed, kicks out a perfunctory OSS release and then axes the internal dev team.

      However, the availability of OSS tools and building blocks of various flavors certainly improves matters for those people who have the skill and experience to make them work together to deliver whatever it is that people actually want. There are plenty of jobs doing the same with proprietary toolsets; but the cost of owning your tools(or even getting a chance to learn hands on) is higher. OSS software creates a nontrivial niche for anybody who can get rid of enough licensing fees in order to justify their salary...

      • "However, the availability of OSS tools and building blocks of various flavors certainly improves matters for those people who have the skill and experience to make them work together to deliver whatever it is that people actually want."

        If there were actually a demand, HP wouldn't have had to axe it - they would have either exploited it themselves, or found a sucker^Wbuyer.

        OSS software creates a nontrivial niche for anybody who can get rid of enough licensing fees in order to justify their salary...

        ...

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Given that 'Open Source' is(among other things) the trendy way to put a product on deathwatch, it does have some correlation with job losses. Company X decides to take Product Y out behind the woodshed, kicks out a perfunctory OSS release and then axes the internal dev team.

        Yes, but it's still meaningless to say "Open Source kills engineering jobs and depresses wages" as there's no obvious causation. If webOS was successful they wouldn't be axing the dev team nor open sourcing it. After all, companies have been killing projects and laying off the staff for ages. The only question would be if open sourcing it lets you kill it faster, by letting the community keep it on life support rather than doing it yourself. Maybe you even get a bit of good PR and goodwill for doing it too,

        • Oh, I don't think that the correlation is causation, back in the day the company in question just axed the product and the dev team and that was that. I was merely noting that you will, in fact, see "Company Open-Sources XYZ" and "Company axes XYZ dev team" in close proximity to one another in a fair number of cases, now that OSS has become an accepted end of life option for certain flavors of corporate software(among its numerous other uses).

          As you say, there isn't any impressive causal relationship(Web
        • by Anonymous Coward

          >Perhaps webOS doesn't have a future, but maybe they have some functionality or logic other projects could use.

          There sure are. The WebOS task switching is vastly superior to Android. I have a Touchpad, and some Android devices, and task-switching / app termination is a huge pain on Android, but dead-simple in WebOS due to the brilliant Card metaphor.

    • Yes, because HP, a company floundering with a new business model that reduces emphasis on PC sales and is downsizing in general, fired those employees because of Open Source but not because they are struggling.
      • The real reason that they were fired is for violating HP's software development standards....

        After it was discovered that they were producing software with a pleasant, intuitive interface, smooth response, fairly modest resource requirements, and had even been rash enough to gather a group of end users who actually liked the software, it was clear that they must not be allowed to sully the HP software reputation.
        • No, I think it more likely that they ran afoul of the Mandatory Driver Download Size rules. When they put a whole OS / application stack in a file 1/10 the size of a typical WIndows print driver, they pissed off a whole bunch of people with higher seniority.

          • It does look rather bad that the restore images for the TouchPad are smaller than some of the driver downloads for their various horrible consumer printers...
    • I realize I should have posted the alternative in my previous post:

      It is bad business to cut your talent on a whim. They would have transitioned these developers/engineers to other projects if they could have afforded to keep them.

      Rather, WebOS to FOSS was a cost cutting measure, and the devs were part of that cost. They would have been stupid to do so without something twisting their arm (in this case, the shareholders).
      • by bored (40072)

        Yah, American business "We can't find any developers in the US so we have to hire abroad". Two weeks later "Uh, we are laying off 1000 developers".

        I totally agree, they wouldn't be laying people off if it was so hard to find new ones. Its 100% about cost cutting, nothing else. Telling people otherwise is a lie. These companies won't be happy until they have thousands of people with 18+ years education willing to work for $10/hour applying for every single software position.

        The worse part is that the only ki

    • by na1led (1030470)
      Android is OpenSource, and many other apps and OS's that are OpenSource actually created lots of jobs. HP couldn't make WebOS a viable operating system, but once it becomes Open Source, WebOS should start thriving again.
    • You've got that backwards. The project was scheduled to be killed, which would have resulted in all the engineers on the project getting fired (or moved to other projects where they would displace other engineers, who would then get fired). As it is, they're keeping a skeleton staff. So open source saved jobs.

      Furthermore, the fact that this project is going to continue in some form opens up the potential for many many more jobs at many other companies--if it's successful, people are going to be porting a

  • by d3ac0n (715594) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @08:48AM (#39196483)

    Cursed by poor marketing, weak launch hardware and a limited budget from Palm, Webos never really had a fair shot at the market. HP bought them at a time when they were transitioning to a new CEO who wanted to move them in a services direction, and so they never got the love they needed from HP.

    Hopefully open sourcing it will give it new life. It would be nice to have a REAL open source platform, and not the pseudo open source with have with Android, where it's really only open to the handset makers and carriers and users have to resort to ugly hacks to make it work.

    I wouldn't mind buying a used Android handset or even an iphone 4S and wiping and re-imaging with Webos. That would be awesome! Finally a good quality OS on good hardware. Kickass.

    • Also one of the rumored problems with the TouchPad development was that the hardware was decided before the WebOS team even started which hampered development.
    • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @09:23AM (#39196823) Homepage

      Hopefully open sourcing it will give it new life. It would be nice to have a REAL open source platform, and not the pseudo open source with have with Android ... I wouldn't mind buying a used Android handset or even an iphone 4S and wiping and re-imaging with Webos. Finally a good quality OS on good hardware.

      One of the reasons that Android is not entirely open source is because that good hardware isn't well documented, and therefore you end up having to rely on proprietary drivers and binary blobs. A "good-quality OS" isn't necessarily any good for the hardware you're thinking about.

    • by na1led (1030470)
      I have ICS running on my HP Touchpad, but I'd still like to see further development for WebOS. If they could make WebOS run Android apps, that would be fantastic.
      • I really tried to like WebOS. The clean UI and smooth multitasking were wonderful but ultimately it's all about the apps, and WebOS is a disaster there. There is only a few thousand available, and most of them are designed for the Palm Pre so they ran in a tiny window.

        After trying it for about a month I loaded CM7 and never looked back.

        Hopefully the CM team can use some of the WebOS source to improve the CM drivers, but otherwise I personally don't see a need for any further development on WebOS

    • by oakgrove (845019)

      pseudo open source with have with Android

      Android is released in its entirety under OSI approved open source licenses. The issue with bootloader unlocked hardware like the Galaxy Nexus/Nexus S etc. is that in order for some of the hardware to work requires binary blobs but developers at Google are hard at work alleviating this requirement. But as far as Android itself it is completely open source under very liberal licenses mostly Apache 2.0.

      • It is rather a pity that much of the cellphone/tablet/widget market seems to act as a veritable case study of why tivoization sucks...
    • Yeah.... I purchased a brand new 32GB HP TouchPad just recently, as one of Micro Center's special offers. (Basically, they're selling off the last of their inventory of them for $149.95 each if you add it to a purchase of some other new HP computer. My day job wanted me to pick up a new HP desktop PC for them anyway, so I paid the extra and got the TouchPad for myself.)

      My impressions of it were:

      1. Upon initial unboxing? OMG, HP tried like mad to make this thing copy-cat an Apple product! Same predominant

      • by ancientt (569920) *

        No rush to run Android, but there is a point. I got my daughter a Touchpad and she loved it instantly... but couldn't find all the Apps she wanted. She has never used an Android phone, so in her mind, Android did everything she couldn't with WebOS. We put Android on it, and it should be noted that it doesn't replace WebOS, it just gives you a dual boot option. She was excited, it was wonderful... for a couple days, then she was using mostly WebOS again. I ended up putting ICS on it and she was again thrille

      • "I don't get all the people rushing to hack these to run Android, quite frankly? webOS is far more enjoyable to work with for a tablet than any of the Android tablets I've seen. Android feels like it was "made for a phone, but shoehorned onto a tablet"."

        I couldn't agree more... I bought mine for relatively cheap during the firesale with the thought that I'd probably just stick Android on it and it would be a cheap way to get better hardware than most of the cheap 'droid slabs that are kicking around, a few

  • Open source (Score:4, Funny)

    by PARENA (413947) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @09:00AM (#39196603) Homepage

    It took our jooobs!

  • Just too funny (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blind biker (1066130) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @09:00AM (#39196605) Journal

    I lost my shit at "Hewlett-Packard [..] as part of its strategy"

    HP and strategy? If you think HP has anything even remotely resembling "a strategy", you're smoking something too strong to be healthy.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @09:07AM (#39196669) Journal
      They certainly do have a strategy:

      They purchased a Magic 8 ball, gave it a set of stock options that most of their employees could never hope to possess, and now shake it twice daily and execute its instructions to the letter...
      • by Enry (630) <enry&wayga,net> on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @09:14AM (#39196739) Journal

        Outlook not so good

        That's it, we're switching to Thunderbird!

      • No shit. Companies like Apple or Oracle, of which I am not particularly fond, do have a strategy. If I worked at either I would at least not worry for my job's long term perspective. HP? Let's just say that if HP changed their name to BOZOS Inc., that wouldn't harm their image one bit.

        When HP goes belly-up, it will be a most undignified corporate death - imagine lots of diarrhea and puke.

      • purchased a Magic 8 ball, gave it a set of stock options...

        The Magic 8 ball got caught up in a sexual harassment scandal and was replaced by a Ouija board. The Ouija board was caught illegally spying on board members and was replaced by a pack of Tarot cards.

        What do the cards say? Devil, Tower, and Ten of Swords...

  • So much for WebOS (Score:4, Informative)

    by Rakishi (759894) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @09:04AM (#39196639)

    It's a myth that you simply dump something out as "Open Source" and it will magically be supported by some group of volunteers. Most, if not virtually all, open source projects have paid people at companies doing much of the development. Often companies dedicated to that product although those using it contribute as well.

    As best I can tell no one else is really using WebOS and HP just said they're not going to provide development effort for it.

    I suspect there'll be enough "volunteers" to act as free support bitches and keep WebOS technically alive but for all practical purposes this means it's never going to be on anything but life support.

    • I agree -- paid techs help make open source projects successful, particularly large ones, like an OS. But the real problem here is not the lack of paid developers, but the lack of real stakeholders. Even if HP kept on a lot more staff, the project would die simply because nobody has a vested interest in seeing it live. The justification right now seems to be that it's cool, not that somebody has a product that depends on it.
    • Unless say, there were suddenly 275 people with an interest in your Open Source project who had a lot of time on their hands.

      "Sorry about firing your ass, but ya know now that you have nothing better to do, maybe you might..."

      G.

      • Exactly. This reveals what HP really wants... Their employees to work on products that they can sell, but that doesn't actually cost them anything to develop. It's just more evidence of a sad long tragic downward spiral of a company that once had one of the most respected research and development departments, now a vacant shell, desperately acquiring companies with even the slightest semblance of buzzworthy technology, only to have no idea what to do with them once they get them. Meanwhile the quality engin
    • by pavon (30274) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:07AM (#39197371)

      The article states that many of the positions which are being cut are hardware related (and they are being moved to new positions within HP not being fired). HP still has quite a few folks who are paid to develop WebOS. Put it this way. How many successful OSS projects have over 300 full-time developers? That many people is massive overkill even if you split WebOS into 4 major projects, and a handful of smaller projects.

  • Great, the next step is to change it back to Palm OS. :0)
    • Re:Palm (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @09:21AM (#39196811)
      Or perhaps - Face-Palm OS :-}
    • Re:Palm (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @09:29AM (#39196903)

      You know who should have bought Palm?

      Nintendo.

      Integrating PalmOS (even at the PalmOS 4 level) into the base operating system of the DS would have been super-awesome. Even just a PalmOS cart would have been great, maybe with an integrated Bluetooth dialler. A DS in a leather cover would not have looked at all out of place in a business meeting. A target market of 150 million units, the possibility of selling add-on services (cloud sync, Exchange integration, etc), a low cost of entry for new buyers (a DS is very cheap, a new phone is not).

      I've not used WebOS but I presume it's rather heavier than the old PalmOS builds used to be ; they are missing a trick. PalmOS was great, even in it's early incarnations. Modern hardware would really make it snap.

      • I hadn't thought of that -- very insightful. Nintendo would have a more modern OS and from the limited exposure I've had to the UI, it would be a good match.
  • There was an article on Slashdot a few months ago stating that several members of HP's WebOS team felt that WebOS was a dead end since it was based on web technology that didn't have enough horsepower to keep up with Android or the various tablet OSes.

    HP is doing the cool thing by turning it over to people who may want it, instead of locking it in a drawer, but how smart would it be to continue developing it as an open source project if the paid full time professionals who developed it think it is a dead en

  • when i see that 275 more have been let go, that means there was even more on this project. With that kind of staff i feel like they did a horrible job developing webos. when i look at developers like the guys at CyanogenMod or other developers like that. that are putting out great software with only donations, it makes me wonder.........
  • I was amazed that HP had the sense to open source web OS. But now I see where they really don't get it.

    Successful, large, open source projects typically have one major sponsor who actually does quite a lot of work on it. Open sourcing it merely gives people more reason to use it and work on it with them.

    Nobody's going to take the ball and run with this if HP, or somebody else, doesn't make it a major responsibility for themselves to do so.

    To dam bad, they almost figured it out (and even then the

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