As recently announced, HP has began the process that will release webOS to the open-source community. This is great news for developers that have been wanting to create software for these devices and probably the best outcome that HP could have made since they were no longer going to develop the platform. This is also an opportunity to bring together Linux and other open-source mobile platforms together to join forces in a meaningful way.
webOS’s open-source license is thought to be similar to the Apache foundation. HP has also consulted with Red Hat to possibly create a license situation similar to the Fedora Project in which there would be strong oversight and prevent additional forking of the project. HP has expressed an interest in keeping webOS from finding its way down the path of Android, which has had problems with forking and multiple versioning in the past.
A large reason this release is such a breakthrough, is that soon other companies will be able to look through the millions of lines of code in the webOS source and find new things they can add to their own projects, as well as learn how to accomplish some of the features of webOS. For developers, this expansion of open-source code is a great opportunity to improve some existing products or create new ones.
It is unclear who will be using webOS as a production OS, if anyone at all, or if the project will simply become scavenged source-code that is used by hobbyists. Since Android and iOS have such large followings, it will be hard to get developers to come on board and begin working on webOS. However, this could be changed if some standardizations were made between the two platforms.
Since webOS and Android are both build on the Linux kernel and share a number of userspace libraries for their core functionality, it would make sense for Google and HP to come to an agreement on standardizations. One of the popular things that webOS developers would like to see is the Android NDK native C++ libraries moved over to webOS since many Android games are written in it. If the kernel and NDK were setup and standardized properly, there would be one single platform for the development of games on webOS or Android. The native packaging system is also a good area to explore between the two systems. Since Android is the more popular system, it would be in webOS’s best interest to move toward the APK packaging system instead of using the IPKG that is currently used.
Since Android and webOS already have a great deal in common, it seems the most logical choice is to combine forces to make development on both platforms easier instead of promoting the separation between the platforms. At this point, there is many things up in the air that must be considered before developers can begin to move forward or any changes can be made. However, the developers should welcome this great gift given by HP to the open-source community and look for the possibilities it can bring.