December 9, 2011 – Hewlett-Packard will turn over webOS to the open source community, a move away from commercial development and months of uncertainty with the mobile platform.

HP will make the underlying code of the platform available under open source license, and stated in a news release it plans to continue to be “active in the development and support of webOS.” Principles outlined by HP for the open source project include accelerating open development of the platform, transparent and inclusive governance, and participation and investment from HP. Soon, HP plans to contribute ENYO, the application framework for webOS, to the community, accompanied with a plan for the rest of the platform’s user space components. The vendor is also inviting input from developers and customers.

In a statement on the move, CEO Meg Whitman said that opening up webOS “unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices.”

HP bought the webOS parent company Palm in April 2010 for $1.2 billion to make a move in the mobile device marketplace. In August of this year, HP stated its intent to shutter the platform due to poor sales of its devices like the TouchPad tablet among a flurry of moves by then-CEO Leo Apotheker. A month later, Apotheker was out, and new CEO Meg Whitman and other executives at HP called for a reassessment of the vendor’s decisions on webOS, PCs and information management offerings.

Stephen O’Grady, analyst and co-founder of the research firm RedMonk, says that HP’s hardware never quite matched the software’s vision with webOS, leading the vendor to lessen its dedication to “a multi-billion dollar acquisition that showed minimal returns.” Still, the platform has its enthusiasts, in part because of its affinity for the Node.js Web framework, he says.

“At the very least, however, HP gave the project a chance for a life beyond this decision with its decision to open source the code. It's not impossible to see a future in which webOS or components thereof have a future with another supplier, one that does not wish to hitch its fortunes to either Android or Windows Mobile,” O’Grady says.

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