HP Releases Open Source WebOS Mobile Platform

By | Sep 13, 2012

After discontinuing the production of devices based on the unsuccessful first version of webOS, HP has recently announced the beta release of an open source webOS mobile operating system (OS), hoping to put previous criticisms to rest. According to HP, the open source platform is designed to produce an "ideal development environment," which in theory should benefit third-party app development and integration with other open source technologies.

The announcement was made within the eight months' time frame HP had previously set for the new release of webOS beta, proving their recent determination in delivering on this promise. Smaller and midsize firms should be beneficiaries of this open source mobile OS because it is supposedly designed to curtail some IT issues in handling complex tasks for app development and deployment.

Last year, HP CEO Leo Apotheker announced plans to exit the declining PC business and stop manufacturing webOS devices because the market was dominated by Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Blackberry OS. However, a month later with a new CEO, HP decided to reverse its course by continuing to focus on the PC and mobile device market amid steep competition which has prompted the company to push out an open source OS, in a bid to attract a wider following.

The Two Build Environments

As a recent eWeek article reports on the issue, the open source webOS beta version has been released in a two build environment, Desktop and OpenEmbedded. The desktop build is designed to enhance the webOS user experience with more features, such as desktop tools that run on development machines, as well as integration of other open source systems on the Ubuntu desktop.

The OpenEmbedded build environment will provide cross-compiling support for different embedded platforms. This means that users can port webOS to different devices and run applications built to perform user-specific functions.

What the Open Source Mobile OS Means for Small and Midsize Firms

The open source nature of this platform should address some concerns small and midsize firms face with complexities of customizing mobile operating systems. While employing different operating systems to serve different IT needs is a common practice at firms, operating them within a single IT infrastructure can prove more costly and complex. HP's webOS can help small and midsize firms achieve seamless integration of mobile applications with existing IT infrastructure with less resources needed.

While Android is already a successful example of an open source mobile operating platform, analysts believe HP's webOS would take open source mobile operating systems further by opening greater possibilities for customization, like interoperability on other devices and operating systems, including Android-run devices, like those from Samsung and HTC.

Building a mobile device operating system as an open source app development platform appears to be a formula for success - Google used this strategy for Android OS and everyone knows how well it worked out. Unlike iOS and Blackberry OS, which incorporate limited open source components, webOS can be used by developers to build applications specific to their company's use.

This could make webOS very attractive to small and midsize firms, especially those that have jumped on the BYOD bandwagon to save costs but simultaneously face security challenges stemming from the use of multiple types of devices as well as the difficulty with creating customized mobile security tools. An open source mobile OS means that IT managers will have less complex methods to include security protocols for mobile devices on their network.

Following the example of other open source platforms, such as the web browser Mozilla Firefox and the computer operating systems founded on Linux kernel, the trend of open source mobile OS should open the door to more stable and secure mobile environments in the future.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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