The open source resurrection of WebOS is underway, allowing device makers and hackers to install the operating system on tablets or other gadgets as early as September.
WebOS is the platform that HP acquired along with Palm for $1.2 billion in 2010. HP planned to make phones and tablets based on WebOS, with the goal of being an Apple-like company that controlled hardware and software. But being like Apple isn’t easy, and in light of dismal sales, HP scrapped its WebOS hardware plans last fall. Instead of killing WebOS, HP now plans to release it as open source software.
A lot of nitty-gritty technical stuff has to happen between now and September. For starters, HP wants to switch the platform to a standard Linux kernel, which, as The Verge points out, will make loading WebOS onto other devices easier due to the greater availability of drivers. HP is also working on a new version of its application framework, called Enyo, which allows WebOS apps to run through web browsers on other platforms. (Think of being able to run WebOS apps within Chrome, or Internet Explorer, in addition to running on phones and tablets.)
Realistically, device makers aren’t going to put WebOS on a phone or tablet this year. They may end up avoiding the platform entirely. But I can see hackers running wild with the operating system soon after the source code is released. If you’re not afraid to tinker, you might be able to boot WebOS on an Android tablet before the year is through.