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With the drama building over the week as a decision loomed, HP has taken the halfway route and decided to offer up its WebOS and the ENYO app framework to the open source community.

A Future, of Sorts

HP's new boss, Meg Whitman had a couple of options when it came to what to do with the company's now redundant WebOS in the light of the failed TouchPad project. She could have closed it down, sold it off, or created some new product line to support it.

In the end she did probably the most humane thing, offering it up to the open source community. A different strategy to Nokia who sold off its Symbian OS (and its related staff) to Accenture after moving over to Windows Phone technology.

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Of course, the open-source sauce comes in many flavors these days. Google's "open" Android OS is being tightened up with every release, and with HP employees still working on the project (there was no word of lay-offs or staffing shuffles) the company will want to see some return.

According to the company, HP will engage the open source community to help define the charter of the project under a set of operating principles, so we'll have to wait and see how this process evolves:

  • The goal of the project is to accelerate the open development of the webOS platform
  • HP will be an active participant and investor in the project
  • Good, transparent and inclusive governance to avoid fragmentation
  • Software will be provided as a pure open source project

What Will It Power?

The big question is what devices will choose to use it? The most obvious route would be the white box tablet makers, who are running into greater obstructions and restrictions with newer editions of Android. They could flock to WebOS as a powerful and cheap alternative.

Similarly, any company looking to do an Apple and get into the mobile or tablet business will find HP a willing ally, assuming it has some smart new game-changing technology to sell to consumers, but lacks the OS. With its single stack, support for common web technologies and decent experience in the current build - it could become a great product with suitable support and investment.

Whatever hardware comes as a result of this project, it will face a world full of super-tablets as iPad 3 and the next Samsung hove into view. But Amazon has proved there is room at the lower-end, and it is here that WebOS could likely thrive.