December 26, 2011
HP Contributes webOS to Open Source Community
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor


by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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HP announced it will contribute the webOS software to the open source community.

HP plans to continue to be active in the development and support of webOS. By combining the innovative webOS platform with the development power of the open source community, there is the opportunity to significantly improve applications and web services for the next generation of devices.

webOS offers a number of benefits to the entire ecosystem of web applications. For developers, applications can be easily built using standard web technologies. In addition, its single integrated stack offers multiplatform portability. For device manufacturers, it provides a single web-centric platform to run across multiple devices. As a result, the end user benefits from a fast, immersive user experience.

"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. "By contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices."

HP will make the underlying code of webOS available under an open source license. Developers, partners, HP engineers and other hardware manufacturers can deliver ongoing enhancements and new versions into the marketplace.

HP will engage the open source community to help define the charter of the open source project under a set of operating principles:
  • 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

  • HP also will contribute ENYO, the application framework for webOS, to the community in the near future along with a plan for the remaining components of the user space.

    Developers and customers can provide input and suggestions at

     

    Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

    webOS has endured a relatively short and troubled life. HP claims that it is “contributing” the mobile operating system to the open source community. However, it seems more that HP is unloading a technology that it realized had diminishing value in an extremely competitive marketplace and something the company wanted to distance itself from going forward.

    Here’s a short history of the HP WebOS saga:

    webOS was introduced by Palm early in 2009 as the successor to
    Palm OS
    . In April 2010, HP acquired Palm, andwebOS was described as a key asset and reason for the purchase. At that time HP said it intended to develop the webOS platform for use in several new products, including printers, smartphones, and tablet computers.

    In February 2011, HP proclaimed that it would be making webOS its universal platform.In March 2011, HP announced plans for a version of webOS by the end of 2011 to run inside
    Microsoft Windows
    , and would be installed on all HP desktop and notebook computers in 2012.

    In August, HP abruptly announced that it wanted sell off its Personal Systems Group that produced all of its consumer PC products. This decision also included completely stoppingwebOS and webOS device development and production.

    On December 9, 2011, HP announced that webOS would be available as an open-source project.

    So, in the course of less than three years, a technology that was acquired and heralded as a promising wave of the future is no more, at least from HP’s perspective.So much for long-term strategy.

    Too bad for HP, but I wonder how the open source community will accept and embrace webOS as a castoff from a major corporate entity.

    Although I’m somewhat skeptical of the future of webOS in the open source community, I am a big proponent of the bigger open source philosophy for a number of reasons.

    In this continuing terrible economy, open source software is about working not with just technology, but people, and the open source software sector is growing. Open source software is not driven by corporate budgets, but by people fulfilling a need and software freedom. The currency of open source is not necessarily money, but rather, a sense of collaborating and contributing to solve complex software problems.

    By and large, open source software (OSS) projects are built and maintained by a network of volunteer developers and other team members that help with documentation, marketing, etc. While much of the software may be free or very low cost (depending on the licensing arrangement), there are also independent implementation, customization, and support consultants who are paid for their services, so there is money to be made.

    I have learned that there are four basic tenets to open source software:
  • Use the software
  • Study and modify the software to improve it
  • Redistribute the software
  • Participate and give back to the open source community

    I really feel that this is a refreshing change and difference when compared to most closed, proprietary software. Although most software can be customized and modified through APIs, it’s still a pretty closed ecosystem.

    The list of open source software applications is actually quite long. Some of the major open source applications you may be familiar with include MySQL, Apache Server, Wordpress, Mozilla Firefox, Joomla, Drupal, just to name a few.

    It’s interesting, too, that the members of the European Union (EU) are required to use open source Linux-based software exclusively, and this includes everything from operating systems to office applications. There is a move afoot here in this country to attempt to do a similar thingthat advocates greater acceptance of open source software and efforts. However, like most everything in government these days, things don’t seem to be moving anywhere to quickly.

    Open source Linux actually fostered the emergence of a couple of computer categories – the netbook, including the one laptop per child (OLPC) program where a good percentage were initially sold with Linux as the operating system.

    So, what about open source CAD vendors?

    As it turns out, there are quite a few open source CAD efforts taking place. While they yet don’t exactly rival the efforts or capabilities of, say, Siemens or DassaultSystemes, there are several applications out there and available running under Linux, Windows, and Mac operating systems. Some of the 2D and 3D CAD and CAD-related open source applications includeSketchup, Blender, CADEMIA, Open CASCADE, PythonCAD, Free-CAD,Cadvas, BRL-CAD, QCad, Archimedes, and others. There are also several open source CAM and CAE applications available, as well. There is even a specialized engineering-oriented distribution of Linux called CAE Linux.

    Will the major MCAD vendors jump on the open source bandwagon? I tend to doubt it, but I am sure that most of the players are watching closely to what transpires as the open source movement continues to grow and evolve. However, some of the big players do offer free offerings through their “labs” programs. Some vendors, notably Autodesk, are also offering inexpensive (and quite capable) versions of software as “apps” for smartphones and tablets. Who knows how the economy, social networking, and the next generation of software users might shape the MCAD software market and how it does business.

    Open source as a potential future alternative CAD source? It’s already happening.



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