Today’s announcement from HP that WebOS will be set free as an Open Source project opens up room for some interesting changes in the mobile landscape. Both CNET’s Stephen Shankland and The VAR Guy think nothing much will come of this move. As both a long time Open Source zealot and a mobile developer, I think there is more there there than they do.
What other prognosticators are leaving out is how this move will fit into the larger mobile landscape. With Microsoft’s colonization of Nokia, the Meego project lost it’s most important, but not only, hardware partner. In September, the Linux Foundation and Intel announced they were changing directions. Imad Sousou, the director of Intel’s Open Source Technology Center posted this about the new project:
This new project is first and foremost open source, and based on Linux. So it begs the question: why not just evolve MeeGo? We believe the future belongs to HTML5-based applications, outside of a relatively small percentage of apps, and we are firmly convinced that our investment needs to shift toward HTML5.
HP’s WebOS’s Enyo framework does exactly that.
But there’s more! Nokia reportedly has “feature phones” underdevelopment that have a bare bones Linux. With Google’s purchase of Motorola, not withstanding protestations to the opposite, Google’s handset partners have to be sweating their options.
With MS’s Mobile Windows product representing less than 2% of 2q 2011 smart phone sales despite MS’s lavish R & D spending, handset makers and carriers have to be antsy for a viable licensable mobile OS so they can at least have a reasonable negotiating position with Google and Apple.
The following market forces supporting a strong Open Source WebOS:
- Handset makers need a viable second OS to avoid being locked into Google’s Android and having to compete directly with Google’s new hardware division.
- Intel badly, badly wants to get its silicon into the mobile market.
- HP clearly wants to sell product based on WebOS, whether printers or tablets, otherwise, they wouldn’t put any resources towards the OS.
- They all seem to be thinking about some sort of Linux + HTML 5 platform
My expectation is that we might see some combination of all these players putting resources into a Webos/Enyo based project that will enable them to meet their needs at the least cost to themselves.