webOS on Android

You might have heard -- webOS just got open-sourced today by HP, joining the world of great, free software like Ubuntu, Firefox, and Android.  It's a pretty big deal for some people, including all those developers you see doing wonderful things with the software on their electronic devices.  HP made the right decision here: let the fate of webOS be in the hands of those who know it best -- like the fellows at webOS Internals.  I'll bet there's one hell of a party going on in Oz this evening.

But what does that mean for Android is what we're interested in, because we're Android Central and that's what we do.  The answer?  Maybe a lot, maybe not so much.  While we don't know what open-source license HP plans to release webOS under (remember things like HTC Sense and iOS started as open-source, but the license allowed them to keep code changes to themselves), as it sits now any code that is owned by HP should be made available to manufacturers and developers.  Some of the proprietary bits will stay closed, and provided as something that plugs in to the running system, but those are almost always hardware- or network-specific bits, so we're not too concerned.

The big and important parts will be available for everyone from the CyanogenMod team to Motorola to use and develop further.  You read that right -- we're all thinking "Wow, the CM guys can port stuff from webOS into CM9!" and we're right, but more important is that so can Google and all the OEMs out there.  Soon there will be a few million lines of new code for engineers to look through and cherry pick the best parts from to add to their existing projects -- and that's a damn good thing.

That doesn't mean it will happen though.  The cores of Android and webOS are pretty different, and things won't just drop in and work.  If it were that easy, we'd already have a bastardized version of Meego, Symbian and Android running on some awesome phone from the far east (and I'd totally be using it).  But having the code sitting there so people can see how it's done certainly makes it possible, and very interesting.  And to be honest, simply open-sourcing webOS isn't going to save it.  If someone (like Google or Samsung) steps in and nurtures it and keeps pumping money and ideas into it, it will keep getting better and better.  If nobody but hobbyists cares, it will wither and disappear, even if those hobbyists are talented geniuses like the webOS Internals guys (and gals). 

We don't know what will happen here.  Just because something can be done doesn't mean it will be done, and with everyone making money hand over fist with Android there isn't a lot of incentive for big changes.  I'm sure we'll see some ideas brought over, and someone will start porting webOS to things like the Xoom or Galaxy S II, but the big picture may not change a whole lot.  It's going to be an exciting time, and we're lucky that HP made this multi-billion dollar gift to the open source community. 


Reader comments

What an open-source webOS means for Android


Yes yes yes yes! I loved webOS on my old Palm Pre+ ...in theory. To have it running on decent hardware would be amazing!

If nothing else, CM team will make the Android port better and there will likely be more ROMs for people to flash.

"If someone (like Google or Samsung) steps in and nurtures it and keeps pumping money and ideas into it"

HP's official press release says, "HP plans to continue to be active in the development and support of webOS." So yes, a company will nurture it and keep pumping money and ideas into it. Of course, we don't know how much support HP will provide. We know Google provides a LOT of support for Android. Will HP provide that much for webOS?

It's not the hardware that is lacking but the software. The touchpad hardware is pretty good yet it is slow and laggy. WebOS is just a laggy operating system that's like running a web server on a phone. You can put WebOS on the galaxy S II and will still end up waiting 15 seconds for an app to load.

Apps load a heck of a lot faster on my Touchpad than they do on my Epic 4G. Granted the Touchpad is dual core and has more RAM than the Epic 4G, but I wouldn't call webOS 3.0 on a Touchpad laggy by any means.

it has bugs that need to be worked out, sure, but android is not bug-free either. Now that everything in webos that can be opened will be it will be much easier and faster to fix.

also, webos is actually quite fast on my TP with the patches, tweaks, custom kernels (I'm on uberkernel) and clocked to 1.728 on both cores (-with f4 phantom kernel- it can easily go to 1.8xx on both cores )

edit... I completely forgot that I'm on "palm default" - 1.2ghz on demand profile. TP was so butter-smooth and quick I thought I had "fixed 1.7 turbo" selected lol. Very impressed.

I had a epic 4G and I don't know what you are talking about. Apps loaded instantly on that device. It wasn't laggy at all but I find webOS to be extremely slow at everything. I bought a Pre at launch and used it for over a year then got the touchpad during the fire sale. WebOS hasn't changed much and it is no surprise that it flopped. Almost everything about it feel half ass.

" webOS Hasn't changed much . No surprise it flopped " really ? The only reason Android changed was because it STOLE ideas from webOS .

Agreed, aside from the cards, webOS was a mess in terms of performance. I really don't see myself ever going back to it and to be honest, I don't see it making much inroads, open source or not.

I guess some company could pick up the mantle and run with WebOS, but HP with all its resources couldn't get people interested in its WebOS products (until they were discounted to $99). If HTC were to start developing for it and drop Android, it would have a long way to go before a finished product emerged. I'm not sure any current Android partner is willing to take a chance on a platform that failed two companies already.

And no one will buy it regardless of who produced it until its $99 or free like all their past products, such as the Pre, Veer, TouchPad and Pixi to name a few. They were giving some of those away and no one would buy them and because of that bad rep most got use to waiting until the price dropped or it was free. It was if you want a webOS device wait a week or two a it will be free or they will be giving them away at door like business cards.

Would be great to see webOS and Android essentially morph together eventually but webOS on its own doesn't sound like it will grab much traction. Apple and Google put a lot of effort into the entire ecosystem and manage the Market/App Store. HP probably won't put much effort into the entire experience of the ecosystem.

webOS is pretty awesome though. I miss it and hope some of its best parts make it to Android.

I think its the best thing that could happen!!!.....lol

More competition for Apple and stopping Androids monopoly. But will add to the fragmentation so not sure about that part. But more competition for Android!!

My palm pre with webos did a lot of things but, none of them very well. The touchpad was over sensitive, not super accurate and had a terrible lag, as did everything with that phone. It was my first touch screen phone. I have to say, I love my Samsung galaxy s android. webos....no thanks?

I didn't like Meg Whitman as a politician, but seem to be making all the right moves at right timing with HP. Will this mean HP will support more Linux too?

I really liked my Palm Pre. With all the mods that I did through webOS Internals my Pre ran pretty fast and smothly.

My primary complaint was the lack of applications that were extremely popular on Android. Otherwise I liked much of what they had going on.

I now run an Android phone but the change was prompted by lack of applications and limited hardware not for a lack of love for the underlying operating system.

It would be nice to see parts cherry picked into Android such as further refinement of cards in ICS and I really did like the combined parts of the messaging client.

I see a win for webOS fans and a win for increased Android Market share, when webOS fans start buying Android devices to port to.

I would think that Matias Duarte is going actually be able port a lot of WebOS design to Android without having to dance around code and such.
Also I can see RIM copping WebOS much easier too into QNX/BB10.
I think Open Sourcing WebOS is the best way to leave it if they do it wright.