HP Puts webOS on Open Source Life Support

by Matt Klassen on December 12, 2011

It’s a case about not caring enough about webOS to invest any further in it but wanting to make money off it regardless. Two weeks ago Hewlett-Packard announced an impending decision regarding the future of its struggling webOS operating system and this weekend the decision came down, webOS will become open source.

According to the tech giant, making webOS open source will allow the mobile operating system to realize its own potential and find its own wings, but more than likely its simply a cheap way to try to milk the OS for a few last cents before the entire operation hits the ground.

In fact, given the history of open source mobile operating systems it truly looks like HP has already consigned webOS to failure, making this latest decision simply one more drawn out step towards the imminent demise of an innovative platform that has been hounded by mismanagement.

I wish HP would just let webOS die already, it would be significantly more merciful. This latest decision to make it open source means HP still retains ownership of the platform but relinquishes proprietary control over the source code. This move subsequently allows developers and manufacturers to alter said source code in order to customize webOS to their specific needs, instead of having to take the OS as is. But will anyone buy into HP’s new strategy?

There’s no question that the decision to make webOS open source was a last ditch effort to try to save the struggling operating system, ostenisbily placing the platform on life support in hopes that developers or mobile manufacturers will take interest in webOS and truly bring the it to life. But here’s the bottom line, if HP doesn’t care enough about webOS to pour any significant development resources into it, no one else will care either.

The truth is, deciding to make webOS open source means a few things: First, HP has no interest in furthering developing or marketing the operating system and although webOS will still remain a part of HP, it will likely be nothing more than a miniscule afterthought. Second, this decision means that no one else out there wants webOS either, as you can bet that HP actively sought a buyer, any buyer, that might be able to give the company some return on its horrible investment.

So what’s HP hoping to get in return? If they’re looking for more than sympathy they can forget it, and even that might be a stretch. Clearly the company is hoping there may be some value left in webOS somewhere, but exactly how making the platform open source will access that hidden (and not mention nonexistent) value remains to be seen.

Simply put, I see this move as an act of supreme desperation with a healthy dose of indecision mixed in as well. HP has a made a bad investment and instead of just admitting it and putting webOS to pasture, its remains firmly in denial, hoping to milk the OS for anything it might be worth…unfortunately for HP though, mobile operating systems don’t function well as paper weights.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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