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HP Open Source Operating Systems

HP Making webOS Open Source 169

Several readers sent word of HP's announcement that the company will be contributing webOS to the open source community. According to HP's press release, they will continue to be active in webOS's development, and one of their goals will be to avoid fragmentation. ENYO, the application framework for webOS, will also go open source in the near future.
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HP Making webOS Open Source

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  • Best choice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:32PM (#38317936)

    From an economics perspective, this is probably the best return on investment they will get: goodwill.

    • It didn't work for Symbian, it won't work for Web OS either. It's dead, any employees thinking that this will lengthen their career should think again, unfortunately.
      • Re:Best choice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:14PM (#38318432)

        Comparing WebOS to Symbian is rather inaccurate.

        WebOS is based on Linux and so, most of the skill sets for developing for any linux platform, will transfer relatively easily. And porting the entire platform will most likely be much less of a problem than Symbian. The biggest issue I ever saw with WebOS was simply that it was closed and restricted to HP.

        • First of all, if they released it with good documentation, they're not simply dumping dead matter, it's a generous gift.

          WebOS is based on GNU and so, most of the skill sets for developing Web or for any *NIX platform, will transfer relatively easily. And porting the entire platform will most likely be

          ...[moderately, non-uniformly] toilsome, because of drivers.

          • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

            it's a generous gift.

            I'd wait until you hear the terms before you say that. If their plan is to GPL it and then dual-license it and force anyone who wants to build an actual product with it to buy a commercial license, "gift" might be a bit of an exaggeration.

      • Re:Best choice (Score:5, Interesting)

        by J. T. MacLeod ( 111094 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:14PM (#38318438)

        The community at large had little reason to care about Symbian. webOS has many things that are quite attractive about it for people that are not already committed to Symbian.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        > any employees thinking that this will lengthen their career should think again

        As a current webOS employee that fully expected to be laid off today, this announcement has *already* lengthened my career at HP.

      • Re:Best choice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @08:35PM (#38321438)

        The problem with Symbian is that the Symbian releases were totally useless for actually compiling and installing onto any platform. And there was absolutely NO documentation on what any of the stuff was or where to find the potentially-interesting bits. Nor was there any documentation or info to point people in the right direction if they wanted to write hardware interface code and drivers and try to get the code running on a given piece of hardware.

        With WebOS, assuming they open source all of it and dont keep important parts like the user-space binary daemon and libraries used to talk to the cellular modem closed source, all the stuff needed to actually get a self-bult OS running on a real world device like the TouchPad or the Pre should in theory be there. And again, if its all opened, porting it to new platforms should be a matter of whether you can find the needed hardware information for the platform you want to port to.

  • Nice work. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tripleevenfall ( 1990004 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:32PM (#38317954)

    I think they could have an opening here. If they really make efforts to avoid fragmentation and get get WebOS onto some future phone handsets, they could avoid some of the mistakes that have been made with Android.

    Let people install WebOS however they want, don't load it up with crapware, give the users full control over the system. Make this the truly "open" mobile OS. ("open" means more than being able to see the source)

    • Re:Nice work. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by alostpacket ( 1972110 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:58PM (#38318282) Homepage

      But how? If they use a license that forbids locking the phones and/or removing features and/or adding bloatware, who would make the phones? What carriers would sell them? Not saying your wrong at all. In fact I very much hope they drive carriers more towards being dumb pipes -- but the devil is in the details on something like this. What would the license need to be? GPLv3?

    • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:22PM (#38318544)

      Rooting an N9
      Settings -> security -> developer mode

      • by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:48PM (#38318852)

        And WebOS was/is also "rooted" on all devices. You just clicked on developer mode. Done.

        It had been that day from day one.

      • by vadim_t ( 324782 )

        That's not real root. Try using insmod to see what I mean.

        Now on N900, there things work like they should.

        • Indeed enabling developer mode gets you a non-root terminal or SSH login. You can get real root on N9 through "devel-su" though, so while it's one more step it's still easy enough.

          • by vadim_t ( 324782 )

            No, that doesn't do it either.

            Like I said, try to insmod something (not already loaded) after devel-su.

            • (Just tried it.) You're right, insmod complains of insufficient permissions. It is uid 0 though, but apparently Aegis is blocking certain actions at the kernel level...

              • by vadim_t ( 324782 )

                There has been a lot of talk about this in the community. I've not had a chance to experiment much yet, but as far as I gather, if you want Aegis gone, you'll have to flash a new kernel.

                The N9 will allow it to boot, but part of Aegis includes encrypted datastores, with the encryption being performed by a security chip. If an unsigned kernel is loaded, the bootloader will tell the security chip and the encryption keys either change or are invalidated, which makes the data stores unreadable. Apparently that b

    • If they really make efforts to avoid fragmentation and get get WebOS onto some future phone handsets, they could avoid some of the mistakes that have been made with Android.

      Well one of the things that drive Android fragmentation is manufacturer add-ons and locked-down devices, meaning that you're not running the generic stock install and you probably can't install the vanilla version on your phone even if you want to. My understanding is that's not so much Google's fault as it is the carriers' fault and the device manufacturers' fault.

      So can HP handle that better? I'm not sure how. What leverage do they have over the carriers?

    • by Locutus ( 9039 )
      I agree and if HP spent all their efforts providing driver support for devices to be reflashed and left the user and OS stuff to the OSS community they might get somewhere. Doing this would initially enable the geeks to put WebOS on their devices, a few robots and probably some other interesting hardware. That could spin into more apps and more interest in the platform outside of just phones. Then it can prove its worth.

      Otherwise, with only a short list of devices it'll run on there won't be much of a commu
  • Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

    by catbutt ( 469582 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:33PM (#38317984)
    This is excellent news. The best thing about WebOS is that it is built on things that people are standardizing on elsewhere. Javascript, html5 etc. WebOS even has node.js built in, which really is a start at tying all these things together -- client side web development, server side development, and "native" app development.

    This is clearly the direction things are heading, and like or hate Javascript, it's going to become the lingua franca for everything but system level or the most computationally intensive stuff. People get tired of reimplementing things they've already done in different languages. There are a lot of things converging right now, and this just might be something that pushes things over the top.
    • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

      by characterZer0 ( 138196 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:40PM (#38318058)

      The best thing about WebOS is that it is built on things that people are standardizing on elsewhere. Javascript

      The worst thing about WebOS is that it is built on things that suck that people are standardizing on elsewhere anyway. Javascript

      • by catbutt ( 469582 )
        Javascript isn't perfect, but its better than having do use a combination of PHP, Objective-C, Java, and Javascript to reach everyone.
        • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:51PM (#38318226)

          Or just write it in C++ with Qt. Get far better speed, vast portability, and no need to use a shitty language like Javascript.

          • by catbutt ( 469582 )
            Far as I know, QT is not portable to browser. And I don't know anyone who recommends doing web apps in C++. And it's not generally appropriate for Android. C++ (minus the qt part) might be ok on iPhone for libraries that don't call directly into the Cocoa API.

            So I'm having trouble seeing how it is so vastly portable to some of the platforms that are most relevant.
      • That is hardly the "worst thing" about WebOS. The worst thing was it couldn't do simple things like join a Enterprise Wireless network like Android of iOS could, you know, by pointing to the WAP and filling in credentials and so on. Then it wouldn't authenticate against Exchange 2010 properly, like Android and iOS could with their Exchange Connectors.

        I got my hands on one this week for the first time, after spending an hour fiddling around, scouring forums and beating my head on the wall ... I just gave up.

    • by alvieboy ( 61292 )

      Sorry, I have to disagree with you, at least in the present time.

      I've been using some Web apps (javascript, html5, you name all techs involved), like floorplanner [] and upverter [], and I find them barely usable. My computer is not however a high-tech one (Core2 Duo T2300 @ 1.66 Laptop, with Nvidia GeForce Go 7300), but it's specs would be *more than enough* to run such simple applications.

      Perhaps the problem is not JS itself, nor HTML5. Perhaps the problem is we're using a technology which was not meant, on the

      • Have you tried multiple browsers? Not all browsers have the same performance with HTML5+ Javascript.

        • by alvieboy ( 61292 )

          Yes, I did try Firefox 7 and Chrome 14. Chrome is a bit faster than Firefox, but not fast enough.

          It's a pity.

  • by jpstanle ( 1604059 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:35PM (#38318014)

    Doesn't make much business sense, but at least the community can actually benefit from HP's blunders this time.

    • by catbutt ( 469582 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:43PM (#38318108)
      I think that anything HP can do to move people away from platforms controlled by their competitors, the better.

      If webOS has all the right things to take off in a big way, a device maker like HP can really benefit. I don't think HP likes having to pay the microsoft tax on all their PC's (they'd sell a lot more cheap pc's if they could reduce the price by the cost of windows), so if the next generation of devices are built on open standards like javascript and html5 take off, all the better for HP.

      Yes it would have been great for them if the world embraced webOS while it remaining fully owned by HP, but that just wasn't going to happen. The only possibility of getting people really interested -- given the head start both Android and iOS have -- was to set it free. It may turn out to be the smartest decision HP ever made.
      • Yes, the massive head start that the open source android platform has will be entirely erased by open sourcing webos at this late date... Somehow...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:43PM (#38318114)
      The current CEO is not the same person who purchased Palm (that'd be Hurd), and they're not even the person who fumbled the ball (that'd be Apotheker). Meg Whitman seems to be actually trying to sort out the mess left by the last two, and if that includes cutting the loses on WebOS then so be it.
    • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:03PM (#38318330)
      Well, not when it is put that way. However, that is not quite the situation that exists at HP. One set of management bought Web OS with a business strategy in place to capitalize on it. That strategy proved to be a failure (or at least the implementation of that strategy proved to be a failure). A new management team came in, discovered that they have this asset that has a strong "fan club" among geeks but no current way for HP to make money off of it. They decided that they had two choices, stick it on a shelf somewhere or release it as open source. The first makes no money and in no way advances the company's interests. The second, also, makes no money, but does provide the company with some badly needed positive PR among a group that significantly influence opinion among their potential customers. Additionally, if the geek fans of WebOS can turn it into what they claim it has the potential to be, it will reduce the market power f several of HP's competitors.
  • Unless you have something to run it on that you'd want to run it on, why does it matter?
  • Nothing the management of HP has announced lately has actually stuck. It is bad enough that they are indecisive, but the fact that they can't stick to a decision means I'm not touching anything HP for a very long time. It would not surprise me if after open sourcing it and a lot of developers put a lot of time and effort into it, they attempted to close it back up.

  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:38PM (#38318040) Homepage

    So HP has decided that they want to continue using and directing webOS, but they don't want to pay for its development.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:47PM (#38318168)

      Two points:

      1. They still employ the software side of the WebOS team. The only people who were laid off were the hardware guys.
      2. They've already said they're looking at Windows 7 or Windows 8 for their next tablet.

      • 1. WebOS has a hardware component?
        2. HP has also said that they were exiting the desktop market and looking to sell webOS.

        • With respect to your #2, they have already officially backtracked on "exiting the desktop market".

        • And for your #1, WebOS was tied to hardware, until TouchPads were discontinued. It was a combined hardware/software platform that they bought from Palm.

          The point is, they aren't getting software development for free as suggested. Some help probably, but not free.

          And as far as looking to sell WebOS, that obviously didn't work or they wouldn't be opening it.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      You make it sound dishonest, but they're not putting gun to contributors' heads and forcing them to work on webOS.

      A decade ago there was a lot of skepticism about Linux and open source in general. How could something that depended on altruism be sustainable? The answer was that open source doesn't depend exclusively on altruism; enlightened self-interest plays a big role in free software's viability. You choose to participate or not based on the benefits and costs to *you*.

      Had, for example, BeOS been open

  • Alright, I'll bite. What is a good WebOS device for sale (I know, they're all discontinued) that we could buy and install the Opened OS on? The Veer appears to be the newest phone and the HP Touchpad the newest (only) tablet. I haven't previously paid much attention to their product line so I'm curious what hardware the WebOS enthusiasts prefer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by naranek ( 1727936 )

      The preferred phone is Pre 3. I have one and it's ... well ... nice. Really nice. Not the superphone of my dreams, but really nice, and it's open. The webOS is marvelous, but there are a lot of kinks and small unpolished bits that are kind of annoying in the long run. I'm hoping opensourcing the OS will help fix those. The hardware isn't as good as I've been used to with Nokia phones, but it's nice never the less. The best points are the hardware keyboard and excellent design. The round shapes make it a uni

    • As a huge WebOS fan that only moved away from it because Sprint never got updated hardware, I am partial to the vertical slider. When I first saw the Dell Venue Pro ( []) hardware I longed for that phone running WebOS (if you replace the dedicated smiley key on the keyboard with @). Add in a dash of microSD slot and upgrade the innards to more recent specs and I'm sold.

      The catch is that nothing outside of existing Palm/HP devices fits the bill. One of the great t
  • Might one then say that Enyo is going Nomad?

  • Obvious question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MonsterTrimble ( 1205334 ) <monstertrimble@hotmail . c om> on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:51PM (#38318220)

    contributing webOS to the open source community

    Under which license? GPL? BSD? Apache? Open source means a lot of different things.

    • by ThorGod ( 456163 )

      Yeah, if they want to avoid fragmentation, BSD seems the way to go. (CCL == BSD, I think?) 30 years later and we don't have distributions of BSD, we have 'branches'.

      • Yeah, if they want to avoid fragmentation, BSD seems the way to go. (CCL == BSD, I think?) 30 years later and we don't have distributions of BSD, we have 'branches'.

        Absolutely, and all 5 users of each branch love it. >;-
        (come on, you know you wanted to say it )

      • Going to get modded down for this but the reason there aren't dozen of distro's for BSD is because nobody uses it. If you REALLY want no fragmentation, go HURD. That is so unfragmented it got ONE install.


    • by Khopesh ( 112447 )

      Still no word on the license as of Dec 12. Hopefully it's because they're talking about this pretty seriously and/or wanting the announcement to make a second big splash. More likely, they're just trying to secure the (legal) rights to various pieces of code they may have sub-licensed themselves (and/or the search for submarine patents or accidentally stolen code).

      I'm hoping this is LGPL, like GTK+ and Qt (though hopefully at version 3). This ensures any OS-level change must be submitted upstream, but

  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @03:59PM (#38318294)

    Hire a dozen or two engineers to work full time porting WebOS to popular Android tablets. Start with the Kindle and Nook tablet. Who says they need to make their own hardware for the foreseeable future if they can make it fairly simple to get WebOS working on a $200-$250 tablet you can get at Best Buy?

    • by ThorGod ( 456163 )

      Yeah, but unfortunately I think they just want free labor.

    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

      I'm sure Amazon and B&N will gladly hand over the keys to their bootloaders to allow HP's firmware to run on their branded devices. While we're at it, maybe Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony can all get together to allow any game to be played on any console.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        maybe Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony can all get together

        Please send me one of your flying pigs.

        • by youn ( 1516637 )

          maybe Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony can all get together

          Please send me one of your flying pigs.

          Yeah! I want a flying pig too. and can I get it in green, just like the one in angry birds? :p

      • The Fire and the older Nook Color both have unlocked bootloaders. Checkout the XDA dev forum for links to CM7 and early ICS builds for the Fire. Sadly BN locked the Tablet bootloader which has caused quite a few geekslike myself to return them for Fires, despite the hardware advantage of the Nook.
    • What's in it for HP?

    • This was the first thing that crossed my mind as well. webOS on my Kindle Fire would be amazing. I have a dual-boot Touchpad bought during the firesale whenever I don't need an Android specific app like Netflix I switch to webOS. webOS is better laid out and at times actually almost fun to use. Of course Android and iOS have the apps, so dualboot is great. Now if only it could triple boot with iOS (which for games and interface I prefer over Android), a guy can hope!
  • by fortapocalypse ( 1231686 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:00PM (#38318306)
    I saw him in the data center, and chased him onto the roof where he parachuted to a motorcycle, but we caught him!
  • Maybe they sold the remaining stock of WebOS tablets cheap to prime interest from geeks and get on Slashdot. And now that they have our attention they want to take on Android. While Android is open source, Google has lost their rep with on Geeks on purity. Everyone thinks of Android as Big Brother in your pocket. If they are smart they can make WebOS, the mobile phone platform that RMS can approve of. And then they'd have something of value.
    • by godrik ( 1287354 )

      If they are smart they can make WebOS, the mobile phone platform that RMS can approve of. And then they'd have something of value.

      Unfortunately, that does not count for much in the regular world... Even in the geek world, the amount of people that would switch from android to something else just based on license would be minimal. I am pretty opiniated on licensing issues, but moving from android (a hacked version) to webOS does not make much sense...

    • A company that changes CEOs every 3 months cannot be said to have a "strategy".

  • Or at least half right: []

    the kindest thing HP could do now is open source WebOS and hope the Chinese put it on cheap smart phones

  • by naranek ( 1727936 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @04:27PM (#38318612)

    Meg Whitman said in an interview with The Verge [] that they are planning on making more tablets later. We'll see how that pans out, but it might give webOS a bit more traction.

    Also the open sourcing webOS might open the door for the Dalvik VM and running Android applications on webOS. That would make things interesting.

  • by Scutter ( 18425 )

    It would be fantastic to see it embedded on iLO boards in HP servers. The ability to extend the iLO with user-supplied code would be terrific.

    • The whole point of the server service processors is to always work no matter what. To maximize the chance of this happening, the hardware vendors want the software running on them to be as tested and deterministic as possible. If end-user code fork bombs or triggers OOM killer to effectively ruin the running state of the service processor, that is bad. Ideally, you'd think an end-user would realize the blame was all their own, but two things occur:
      -'Why didn't you make your platform bullet-proof no matte

  • by BenSchuarmer ( 922752 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @05:30PM (#38319322)
    HP leadership is now using a Magic 8 Ball to make all their decisions.
    • You're post made me laugh, went to mod it funny, hit redundant... commenting to fix the modding mistake :-/
  • I was hoping this would be the way it would go. I think it's going to be a game changer. Expect HTC and others to jump on this.
  • I had a palm pre (Score:4, Interesting)

    by greywire ( 78262 ) on Friday December 09, 2011 @08:15PM (#38321224) Homepage

    and now I'm sporting a new android phone. Because I had no choice after HP killed webos and the hardware.

    Open sourcing it is probably the best thing they could do, at this point.

    If you think WebOS is dead, let me tell you, in many ways it was and is still miles ahead of android.

    I severely miss the productivity of the seamless, quick flipping between running applications that even my much more modern android phone (with at least double the processor speed and memory and more than twice the screen size) cannot fathom. Yes android multitasks, but switching between apps is a pain, even with third party task switchers. And there's nothing as slick and reliable as synergy and the webos messaging UI.

    Here's what I'd like to see: port the WebOS development "stack", the card GUI, and synergy (with the email, messaging, and facebook apps) to android. Find a way to get android apps to run within the webos card GUI. Thats an "app" I would happily pay good money for. I hate my android phone sometimes (in the same way I hated not having many apps on my palm pre). Lots of apps though.

    I think this would be a better goal than just porting WebOS to various hardware. WebOS will probably never have the apps that android has. Eventually, I'm sure, Android will catch up in the GUI and such.

  • I never quite got why HP never pushed the Touchpad for enterprise use.

    I can't think of another tablet that had Java SE available to install.
    (Ignoring the Win7 versions running on x86, mostly reskinned keyboardless netbooks)

    There are a ...few... companies that use Java for many internal apps, (or at least user facing portions) and given the tablets specs it seems a natural.

    I'm still hoping to score one Monday assuming HP still does the Ebay dump, the (sold) prices for the 32gb seem to have been hovering arou

  • When a major corporation makes one of their previously proprietary crown jewels open source, it's an admission that it's dead.

    (And for those who are going to say that WebOS was never close to being one of their crown jewels, what would you call an HP jewel? HP-UX? JetDirect?).

    • by iamacat ( 583406 )

      Fsck! I haven't got the memo that Java and Solaris are dead. And here I am, busy implementing a major public platform and a service on a technology with no future.

      It is actually a good move for HP if they are positioning webOS as an alternative to Android, which is open source and has the largest smartphone OS market share.

      • I don't know that I agree w/ the GP, but Solaris, after being OSS for some time, went back to being CSS. Yeah, OpenIndiana is still alive, but any enhancements they make to Solaris won't be in OpenIndiana, so that will have to depend on its own team.

        But GP does bring up a good point - if WebOS is worth Open Sourcing, why not HP/UX? After all, for all practical purposes, it's a single platform OS for Itanium, and all its competitors - FreeBSD and Debian - are FOSS. So why not make HP/UX FOSS as well?

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