The WebOS stack represents a rich set of components that combined together create a comprehensive platform for mobile devices. The highlight of today’s announcement has to be the open sourcing of Enyo, the application framework for webOS. This is a powerful framework that app developers can use to build applications that will work across different platforms including iOS, Android, webOS and so on.
Companies announce open sourcing products and projects all the time. There are several decisions HP executives made in this process that I think signal they are on the right track:
webOS is moving to the mainline Linux kernel. This saves any device maker service and support costs since it will eliminate much of the custom code those companies need to support. They have committed considerable resources to working with the upstream project, which will insure their Linux investment will last. Open sourcing Enyo, instead of keeping some components closed source, will ensure that the complete stack is available with no lock-in by HP. While this enables competitors to literally take the R&D HP has invested in this product and use it to target other platforms, it also ensures that device manufacturers and app developers can make full use of the whole stack; thus increasing the changes that webOs may be adopted and used in products. By using the Apache 2.0 license, HP has smartly decided to use a standard and well respected license, instead of something unique, niche or proprietary. Everyone understands the terms of the Apache license, thus cutting down on the requirements for education or promotion. By using and contributing to core upstream Linux projects, HP is hedging its investment. Contributions of code that make Linux more power efficient will not only help them in mobile but also in the data center where power and cooling are central costs.
While there are clearly other open source solutions in the mobile space with Android and Tizen, choice is always good in technology. By using a mainline kernel, this announcement is also good for Linux, since any work HP and others contribute to webOS (think power management, device driver support, etc) can end up benefiting all Linux users. And by “all” I mean all, not just those using a phone running Android. Since server and desktop Linux users also use the mainline kernel all can benefit from this work.
Will webOS be successful? That of course remains to be seen. I will be watching, like everyone else, for announcements of device support. But by making smart early and crucial decisions like this, the project has a much better chance of succeeding.