HP’s announcement on Friday that it will open source its Linux-based mobile operating system webOS means that a competitor to Android and Apple iOS survives, even though it has yet to garner significant attention from the developer community. Meg Whitman’s decision to open source webOS empowers the open source developer network to enhance a product that was widely regarded as highly promising even though it failed to gain traction because of poor sales of HP smartphones and tablets. HP’s decision to open source webOS comes just months after its August announcement terminating sales of webOS products, including the HP TouchPad and webOS phones.
HP is reportedly considering an open source licensing structure through the Apache Software Foundation. In terms of governance, HP is leaning towards a structure similar to Red Hat’s Fedora Project, which would allow HP to retain tighter control over enterprise-grade Linux deployments and provide HP with final voting authority on webOS updates, thereby ensuring the product remains compatible with subsequent versions of HP’s hardware. Whitman does foresee a future for webOS powered tablets developed by HP, but noted such tablets may not materialize until 2013. HP purchased webOS as part of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm in April 2010.