The swift demise of Palm’s webOS mobile operating system should be a cautionary tale for all actors in the technology world. From media darling to virtual oblivion in just a couple of years, webOS shows what can happen when great technology ends up in the wrong hands. And boy, they were wrong.
HP bought Palm in early 2010, and market watchers noted that the main reason why HP paid the $1.2 billion was webOS, a Linux-based OS that was supposed to be HP’s ticket to the mobile bonanza. Needless to say, things went awry. Leo Apotheker shocked the world in August 2011, announcing that HP might give up its PC business (it didn’t in the end), and would kill webOS and the TouchPad.
Fortunately, HP decided to open source webOS and let it live on as Open webOS. Today, the operating system reached a major milestone – version 1.0. Open WebOS is now available for download, although it’s not yet fully functional. Notably, it misses updated versions of the WebKit and Qt frameworks, a Bluetooth stack, and some media components.
Open webOS is interesting because it’s very versatile. According to HP’s Steve Winston, the Chief Architect of Open WebOS, it took just two days to port the operating system on a HP TouchSmart PC. Check out Winston’s demo of the OS below.
Sadly for TouchPad fans, the open source incarnation of webOS is not compatible with legacy devices, including the TouchPad. It’s ironic that you can run the latest version of Android on the TouchPad, but not Open webOS, at least for now. But I am sure that there will be dedicated users that will work on reuniting the tablet with the new webOS.
HP promises to bring more features to Open webOS, but at this point, the question is will anyone care? For device makers, Android seems like a much better proposition. Microsoft is pushing hard its WP8. Can a new operating system have any sort of meaningful impact?
I think it mostly depends on HP. We heard rumors about them getting back in the mobile arena, possibly with the help of Android. If HP itself bets on Android instead of webOS, what can you expect from other manufacturers?
Still, webOS is open source, and there’s a chance it will develop some sort of following. It might prove successful for some niches, so we can’t dismiss it just yet.
Do you think that Open webOS stands a chance of becoming relevant again?