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HP throws WebOS to open source community

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HP will bite the bullet and dump the WebOS operating system on the open source community.

The company made the announcement, as expected, that it would no longer sell the software and instead will transfer the source code, along with the ENYO application framework for WebOS and the remaining components of the user space, to the community in the near future. HP said that it will continue to work on the code, but gave no details of what that support might entail.

“WebOS is the only platform designed from the ground up to be mobile, cloud-connected and scalable,” said Meg Whitman, HP president and chief executive officer, in a statement. “By contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices.”

The move is a pretty humiliating climb-down for HP. It paid $1.2bn for Palm last year, saying it would put WebOS on every PC, printer and tablet that left HP’s factories. WebOS would be available on all HP’s computers as a dual boot option, Leo Apotheker promised, and Touchpad sales would give Apple something to worry about.

The reality proved vastly different, not least for Apotheker. The buying public gave a poor reception of HP’s short-lived Touchpad (unless the price was cut to $99) and developers, who had been at the heart of Palm’s early success, were ignored or fed misinformation. WebOS, despite being, at its core, as good as anything else on the market, began to die from lack of interest and support.

HTC, Samsung, and others had been mentioned as possible buyers for the operating system, but with Android dominant, Apple doing well and Microsoft promising to unleash a tsunami of support for Windows Phone, no one was really going to pay that much for the OS as it stood. It’s now hoped that open source enthusiasts will keep the operating system alive, but essentially that’s the end of the line for Palm’s ambitions in the handheld computing market. ®

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