After supposedly suffering an early demise with former parent company HP ceasing active development, webOS gets a second lease on life on smartphones and tablets through a community effort called LuneOS.
WebOS made waves in the early smartphone days, with Palm and HP pioneering a touch-friendly user interface that focused on card-based multitasking that involved swiping and multi-touch actions. The user interface seemed to be ahead of its time, with features such as over-the-air updates and multi-touch gesture and swipe-based multitasking. webOS was also praised for its the more open nature of its application development platform, compared with the likes of Android and iOS at the time.
With poor sales, however, HP had to scuttle its webOS-powered smartphone and tablet lines, and had plans to sell off webOS along with this. HP has since re-established itself as an enterprise services company and released webOS as an open-source development platform. As for its devices and mobile platform, community efforts to salvage both software and hardware were not to be deterred, however. Users promptly made ports of Android for the HP TouchPad, which was considered as having decent hardware for its price, especially after HP and retailers deeply discounted the price.
Meanwhile, webOS found a home in smart TVs produced by LG. But the smartphone and tablet version lives on in the Open webOS project. While it has been a while since the developers announced any major news, the team has been quietly working on a release. In 2013, the team renamed to LuneOS, and has recently launched the first release code-named “Affogato”.
LuneOS supports some popular devices, including both devices originally designed for webOS as well as Android. These include the HP TouchPad, LG Nexus 4, Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Google Nexus 7 (2012 WiFi version). The team says it will focus development mostly for the TouchPad and Nexus 4, as its “main focus is not to add new devices as they appear on the market but instead to provide a stable, easy to use and easy to port software base.” However, with a stable base code, it is likely that other developers will also port the base LuneOS code to run with other devices, as well.
At this point, LuneOS is meant for early adopters and aficionados, as it still does not provide the full functionality that smartphone and tablet owners may expect from their devices. As with any alternative platform, features and functionalities grow along with increased use and maturity. The development team has also shared a porting guide for other parties that wish to create builds of LuneOS for other devices.