HP WebOS: Now Open, SDK for WebOS Version 3.0 Available Today

Hewlett-Packard is opening up its mobile webOS — a valuable IP property and OS it inherited from its purchase of Palm Computing in late 2010. Here are all the details on this continuing story, UPDATED: HP will sell WebOS based tablets in a year, when market matures …

Ending months of speculation of what it would do with webOS — the mobile OS HP inherited when it purchased Palm Computing last year — Hewlett-Packard today finally said it is keeping its webOS after all.

HP is releasing it as an open platform for developers. The Software Development Kit (SDK) for webOS 3.0 is available to download at this link now.

New HP CEO Meg Whitman had this to say in a prepared statement for the media:

“WebOS is the only platform designed from the ground up to be mobile, cloud-connected and scalable,” she said, adding that “by contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices.”

Here is what HP’s Fred Patton said in the HP blog announcing the move and the new SDK.

Open Source! by Fred Patton, HP Blog Announcing webOS is Open, Full HP Support for SDK

Well, you’ve been waiting for the big webOS announcement, and today we’ve made it. This morning, HP announced that webOS will be going open source with the resources of HP behind it. The Developer Relations team is very excited by this announcement and what it means for the future of webOS, and for you, our developer community.

With this announcement, Meg Whitman has reiterated HP’s commitment to webOS as a cloud-connected, scalable platform, while opening up new possibilities for platform expansion and improvement. She has also committed HP to a course of continued improvement to webOS, which means we’re in it for the long haul. Finally, we are committed to good, transparent and inclusive governance to avoid fragmentation of the platform.

Here in Developer Relations, we have the deepest appreciation for you, our developer community. You have helped to bring this announcement about through your passion and commitment, through periods of both promise and uncertainty.

We are committed to you as not only contributors to our app ecosystem, but now to webOS itself. We recognize that there’s a larger open source community of which we will now be a part, and are excited by the future now open to us.

We also know you’ll have a lot of questions, and we don’t have all the answers right now. We will keep you up-to-date on the latest developments, both in the forums and here on the developer blog.

HP, by keeping webOS and opening the source code up to developers and by getting into the SDK business, now will monetize the valuable patents associated with webOS and other valuable Palm properties, IP-wise.  Licensing for vertical clients will likely prevail, as is evidenced by its announcement with Stanford on an HP webOS based MRI app.

On its site, HP highlights a Stanford researcher who adopted an HP Touchpad with webOS for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) use. Not only is the HP Touchpad case surprisingly resilient under harsh magnetic torture –30,000G — but webOS performance and multitasking help Stanford create a unique and useful MRI medical app, a Stanford rep said

The mobile OS webOS is pretty much universally regarded by developers as a stable, sophisticated system in terms of multitasking, user interface and just sheer flexibility. And its associated patent portfolio is broad and deep, patent experts say.

The breadth and great depth of the claims in the Palm-originated patent portfolio is the main reason HP is not at all and likely never will be involved in the so-called patent wars. Samsung, Apple, HTC and a host of other firms are suing and countersuing one another around the globe over mobile and chip patent infringement claims.

The HP webOS portfolio is by all accounts, and by this reporter’s examination, the deepest, collection of mobile tech related patents in the world. Now the portfolio is only increasing in value, especially with today’s announcement.

HP is largely immune from IP-related patent suits, I should note. Who would sue HP?

After IBM, HP is the No.2 largest patent holder in the world.

Ever since HP in August killed its webOS-based TouchPad, the fate of webOS was up-in-the-air. Weeks after HP killed the HP touchPad tablet, sources told this reporter that Apple, Microsoft and Samsung each “were lining up” to possibly license or purchase the webOS and other Palm patents, invented by Palm founder Jeff Hawkins. They hold tremendous value.

Looks like webOS in open source potentially holds greater value. Here’s what HP’s Fred Patton said on his HP blog today about today’s release of webOS as an open platform

HP is right to hang on and monetize the worthwhile and forward facing technology — and patent portfolio — it holds with webOS and the other IP it inherited with Palm. Patent experts tell me the IP value has likely doubled since the purchase of Palm a year ago.

And the OS, as I noted, is particularly excellent in terms of multitasking and other flexible UI functionality.

Here is the internal memo Whitman sent to HP employees, which I’ve confirmed with several HP employees as being the real thing.

From: CEO – Meg Whitman
Sent: Friday, December 09, 2011 2:03 PM
Subject: webOS to be contributed to the open source community

Meg Whitman

TO/ All Employees

SUBJECT/ webOS to be contributed to the open source community

Today, we announced that HP will contribute our webOS software to the open source community and support its development going forward. We believe that this is the best way to ensure the benefits of webOS are accessible to the largest possible ecosystem.

Since we announced the discontinuation of our webOS devices last August, the executive team has been working to determine the best path forward for this highly respected software. We looked at all the options in the market today and we see a clear need for a platform that is both open and has a single integrated stack.

webOS is the only platform designed from the ground up to be mobile, cloud-connected, and scalable. By providing webOS to the open source community and other hardware vendors we have the potential to fundamentally change the landscape.

HP engineers, partners, other developers and hardware manufacturers will be able to contribute to the development of webOS. Together, we have an opportunity to make it the foundation of a new generation of devices, applications and services to address the rapidly evolving demands of both consumers and enterprises.

I would like to thank the webOS team for continuing your efforts under very difficult circumstances during these last couple of months. Your dedication is very much appreciated.

This is a very positive move for the development of our people, our software and HP overall.

We strongly believe that the best days for webOS are still ahead.



UPDATED: Here is the Developer Center for folks wishing to try their skills out on a WebOS app, which certainly will run on a new HP tablet based on Web OS that HP plans to release in late 2012 or 2013, Whitman and board members told reporter. Yes, HP is back in the tablet business. Guess it’s going to see what shakes out before trying again.





  • Agreed. I can’t wait to hear all the things you guys to do with it — and to publish a whole rash of stories on exactly how to root it and a ton of How Tos. Eric F. — feel free to be captain of that effort : )

    Ha. While you’re relaxing after working in DC : )

    Thanks for joining the team, Eric Finkenbiner. Based in Washington DC, Eric Finkenbiner is an IT pro now working at the US State department and as aNewDomain’s deep tech rooting and Linux go-to guy. Email him with challenges at Eric.Finkenbiner@aNewDomain.net