As with HP’s Personal Systems Group before it, webOS appears to have narrowly avoided discontinuation. In a Friday press release, Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman announced her decision to turn webOS into an open source platform, allowing HP’s engineers and its dedicated community of developers to help shape the future of the mobile OS. This decision is a direct reversal of that of her predecessor, Leo Apotheker, who discontinued operations for webOS before he was replaced by the HP board of directors in September.
In her statement, Whitman touted the cloud connectivity and scalability of webOS, which the open source community will be able to leverage to “advance a new generation of applications and devices.” As part of this announcement, HP plans to release the webOS codebase under an open source license. It will do the same with ENYO, the webOS application framework, in the “near future.”
Of course, HP doesn’t plan to wash its hands of the platform. The company has promised to be an “active participant and investor in the project.” HP also aims to help the open source community avoid fragmentation while “accelerating the open development of the webOS platform.”
This is good news for many webOS developers, who may have been looking into investing their time and energy into other platforms. But will it make much of a difference in the long run? The webOS software lives, but a resurgence of webOS hardware from HP is highly unlikely. If HP wants to turn webOS into a viable competitor to Android and Windows Phone, it will have to convince a lot of hardware manufacturers to join its cause.
Update: We’re now receiving reports that, shockingly, HP is indeed considering webOS hardware. Tablets, to be exact. Things are still in flux at this point, but Whitman doesn’t believe the company’s line of webOS smartphones will return.