2011 has been an exciting year for mobile app industry with many dramatic developments, latest being HP’s announcement to make webOS available as open-source software.
HP had acquired the software from ailing Palm at a whooping price of US$1.2 billion in 2010 which had raised hopes of giving webOS a fresh leash of life. But due to lack of vision and clear cut strategy, HP failed to gain market share for webOS and had to announce its decision to discontinue with webOS operations in last August, leaving the future of webOS uncertain.
After months of speculation, HP has declared that WebOS will be offered as open source software under a license that allows hardware makers and software developers to access its source code, modify or edit it for their products, but requires companies/ developers using it to contribute their changes back to the project.
The decision has triggered a heated debate about the future of webOS. While some feel that the latest decision spells death knell for the webOS , another school of thought is of the opinion that this could be a turning point for webOS as it can be used for multiple devices, not only tablets, but for other consumer electronics as well.
We believe that this is best possible thing HP could have done in the given situation. It could actually give webOS a second opportunity for survival if HP executes the transition in an effective manner. A lot will depend on what licence it chooses to operate under, and what kind of support it will offer to developer community.
webOS without doubt is a great platform with potential. Unlike Apple and Microsoft products, it is not vendor-controlled, nor does it face the fragmentation and security issues faced by Android developers. The above factors could help webOS attract both developers and device manufacturers.
Another attraction that could interest developers is the use of web apps. Developers will be able to leverage standardised Java development tools to build and port apps to webOS more rapidly compared to Applie iOS and or Google Android systems. Also, webOS’ sophisticated HTML app runtime environment can be ported to other operating systems without hassle. This could allow webOS to seamlessly run on Android devices or even desktop platforms.
However, it will definitely not be a cake walk for webOs. There are many challenges ahead. Though HP has expressed his commitment to support the development of webOS, it has not made the level of its participation or the kind of investment it will be making to promote webOS. Without a strong commitment and guidance from HP, webOS might fail to attract developers. Moreover, to attract developers, one needs more than just a good platform. Until HP manages to tie up with device manufacturers, it will be hard to convince developers to shift their focus to webOS.
All said, we strongly believe HP has made a promising move as we see more and more new players entering tablet space. If HP comes out with a more concrete strategy, it could very well convince the new comers to use webOS as a cost effective alternative to iOS and Android. Moreover, new players might want to go with webOS to differentiate themselves from Android and iOS device manufacturers.
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