Feeds

back to article Why there's real hope for webOS - if HP is committed

It's too soon to declare that Hewlett-Packard has "dump[ed] webOS in the open source trash can", as my friend and mobile open source expert Fabrizio Capobianco insists. But it's also way too soon for HP to speculate on its action being any sort of victory, given the immense difficulties inherent in successfully open sourcing …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
Anonymous Coward

"There's no hope for WebOS"

There, I fixed it for you, Matt. And here's why.

Developers need to feel a stake in the community. They also like to take pride in contributing to a finished product - such as a milestone software release. And they like to feel that there's some kind of democratic process, not one measured in votes like Debian perhaps, but a place where voices are heard and consensus recognised.

Even if a WebOS community was spontaneously formed overnight, it would still be reliant on a hardware manufacturer to make anything happen. Nobody has comitted to WebOS so far.

There is no open source-powered consumer electronics product that has an active community driving its development - lots of manufacturers take bits of GPL code they like and use it, but that's a one-way street, it's not a community. The relationship with a hardware manufacturer just reminds them that they're unpaid slaves.

So you're hoping for something to happen that has never happened before - but can't say why it will happen this time.

Moving right along...

4
7
Happy

Looks like you don't know anything about WebOS.

It has the MOST active mobile community that exists.

The core of WebOS is coded in HTML and js and the source code is just there, in the device. There is a VERY active community doing mods for the WebOS devices and HP has reached this community already

Cheers

JD

4
1
Anonymous Coward

MOST? VERY?

You're trying to convince yourself

I can think of two 'mobile communities' that are more active with more developers and more users.

I like WebOS, I've said it before, but sadly that duck is dead

0
0
Stop

No, consumers aren't allergic to a bargain. A large minorty of those TouchPads will already have Android flashed onto them. The rest just saw an oportunity for "a cheap tablet". There's no market loyalty to WebOS like Android and iOS.

This is the same coconut WinPho 7 is currently trying to crack. Build up enough market interest in what is essentially a very good OS to make it commercially viable. The difference is MS are spending the money, HP are and will be thoroughly half-assed about it and eventually give up. There's lots of 'ifs' 'buts' and 'maybes' in this acticle.

Open source won't work for a consumer device. Users want a well-supported OS with a recognisable face behind it. And open Web OS won't give that. In my experience open source makes things more complicated for the user, not easier. Who wants a gadget that's 'complicated' to use?

2
6
Anonymous Coward

"Open source won't work for a consumer device."

There are tons of "consumer devices" running on open source software. What you perhaps mean is that giving the users the ability to change the software "won't work", but then you insist that...

"Users want a well-supported OS with a recognisable face behind it."

And if that is all most people care about, then giving the supposedly small proportion of users the chance to modify the software doesn't take anything away from anyone at all.

"And open Web OS won't give that. In my experience open source makes things more complicated for the user, not easier. Who wants a gadget that's 'complicated' to use?"

Thanks for the classic argument based on a generalisation, if not exactly a strawman argument. Let me rewrite it for you:

"In my experience unicorns hate ponies. Who wants an animal that hates ponies?"

Being open source does not preclude any piece of software from being easy to use.

5
1

@Simbu

I agree with you regarding market loyalty for WEBOS but I'd argue there isn't any real market loyalty for the other OS's either. Android is a commodity OS on many different devices and the real loyalty with Apple products is to the overall design concept, not to the OS.

Users don't care at all about the OS on consumer devices, they just want them to work.

In an emerging consumer device (such as tablets or smartphones) people care about the OS as some of the OS's work better than others and are better supported with new features/functions (apps).

Once you reach full consumer device status it doesn't matter what the device is - it just works and does what you need - TV, Hi-Fi etc.

I think this was in many ways the genius of Apple with the IPhone and the IPad, they took complex devices and made them things that just worked out of the box, without needing to really read any instructions.

I haven't bothered flashing my WEBOS touchpad with Android because out of the box it does what it needs to for me - it reads ebooks with Acrobat Reader and comics with Comicshelf HD, it was easy to get the apps to make it do these things without reading any manuals.

The system tells me when it wants to update itself (same as with my TV), there are some more techie things I can do with it if I really want to but thats a bit like trying to hack my TV in that I might put Android on the Touchpad at some point because it will be fun to do but I don't NEED to do it.

In terms of opportunity Apple win by being the most consumer focussed, Android wins by being almost everywhere thats not an Apple. I think WEBOS could potentially get a lot of Androids space.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Open source won't work for a consumer device.

Also, isn't Android based on Linux and iOS on net/freeBSD?

2
1
Silver badge
Paris Hilton

"Also, isn't Android based on Linux and iOS on net/freeBSD?"

Well by that criteria, WebOS is also based on Linux.

I'm not sure how that is pertinent at all.

1
1
Happy

>There's no market loyalty to WebOS like Android and iOS.

The numbers are small,because the companies behind were not able to attract new users, but for the people that actually use it, WebOS generates the biggest loyalty out there, based on comments from editors that manage multi OS sites.

>Open source won't work for a consumer device

Isn't Android open source? That the SO is open sourced doesn't mean there won't be a company behind it package it nicely and give it support.

2
0
Bronze badge
Boffin

Is Android "open source", well no, it isn't by any definition other than Google's.

0
0

@AC "Being open source does not preclude any piece of software from being easy to use."

I have to both agree and disagree with this statement. Being open source doesn't in any way force software to be harder to use, but unfortunately this is normally the case. I'm a big advocate of open source (because I'm a geek) but there's a reason why Windows and OSX dominate on laptop/desktop. They're simple, fairly idiot-proof, no set-up or technical knowledge is required and they have marketing support and advocacy. Personally, I love messing around with different versions of linux, but 90%+ of my friends outside of the tech world have never even heard of it.

In the mobile sphere, people love iOS because it just works and Android is rapidly taking the old MS position of strong brand, pretty good and plenty of marketing dollars to support it.

A true open source mobile OS is likely to end up with the same market share as linux does on the desktop and it's precisely because it will be harder to use and is unlikely to be supported by comprehensive marketing (so nobody will even hear about it).

0
0
Meh

Its the API's That Matter!

Right now in mobile, there are just 2 APIs that matter most to developers. Java based of Andrioid/RIM (older OSs), and Object C base of iOS. In a few years, then maybe win phone API will also be more attractive.

With WebOS, there just isn't an attractive API to code against, which is a real shame seeing how earlier version of WebOS did have a Java API in there. HP/Palm just decide to promote the whole HTML/CSS/AJAX API, which hasn't proved attractive to developers. Something to do with native apps can be more readily monetized. Rim is also facing the same issue with their new OS.

In short, developers are just not interested in learning some radically different API if the device/OS market share is not that high no matter of good the OS is ( i.e. low return on investment).

As such, I don't see WebOS going anywhere, open source or not. Much like Linux hasn't gone anywhere on the desktop (speaking as avid Linux user for the past 14 years).

1
3

there are good frameworks

The Enyo framework (and its predecessor Mojo) do provide good APIs as many developers will attest to. Admittedly there are some issues that could do with ironing out but it's far rosier than the suggestion that there aren't any decent APIs to code against. And combined with the PDK plugin method for combining your c code with the html+javascript stuff you've got a solid base upon which to build.

I'm not saying there's any guaranteed success here, but it stands a chance and I hope it does well.

1
0
Bronze badge

" HP/Palm just decide to promote the whole HTML/CSS/AJAX API, which hasn't proved attractive to developers."

Something tells me that HP not using the Java API probably had something to do with Oracle owning Java.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Nokia didn't even try

They saw it, as they let painfully, shamefully clearly, slip at the end, as lip service to buzzword compliancy for a bit of business-enhancing good PR from a dead horse. Instead they broke so many promises and stabbed so many backs that they weren't credible any longer, and will not be for a long, long time to come. And for that matter they did foul the waters for other big corporate would-be openers of source in the mobile field. That's where most of the hate is coming from. Thanks so much for your community service, nokia.

To be useful as open source, you need the code, you need the tools to build it, and you need hardware to run it on. To be successful, as an open source project, you need a sizable bunch of interested users and active developers. Not just developers, not just users, you need both. They need easy access to running the code as much as or even moreso than access to the source. And people need to be motivated, starting by not getting constantly demotivated.

I see hp is trying to pace themselves and to manage expectations. That's all good and well, in fact it's commendable, but all the same I'll be right here with my list, ticking boxes --or not, as the case may be-- watching them fulfilling their promises. Or not, as the case may be.

0
2
Angel

APIs

That's why Symbian is no more - because of its terrible API.

2
0

No, Symbian has hundreds of thousand of apps, it is no more because on the user front is not competitive with the new touch interfaces.

If a device sells well the developers will take the effort to develop for it.

0
0
Bronze badge

i thought it was because

Microsoft paid Nokia to kill it.

Everyone I know with an N8 loves it.

0
0
Bronze badge
Thumb Down

Hmmm... aren't we missing a key ingredient?

Where's the hardware coming from, once the current HP tablets are done for? Linux and BSDs can always run on PCs, remember.

Will a company such as say, Samsung or HTC, develop tablets for WebOS? Which is "sponsored" by HP, a potential competitor? What's in it for HP? Would HTC use WebOS if HP had no real stake in WebOS, i.e. wasn't getting much revenue out of it and could pull out whenever?

Android is only superficially the same. Google was not a hardware company, until Motorola. Google has deep pockets and is motivated by ads so can be expected to stay the distance.

Or is the market here the community of homebrew modifiers who would buy a full tablet from another vendor and flash it with WebOS? Just because WebOS rocks isn't enough. AmigaOS, anyone?

Where is the hardware coming from? How is HP gonna make money? Why should other hardware companies rely on HP's goodwill? Is the end result going to be consumer friendly?

1
1
Silver badge

"Will a company such as say, Samsung or HTC, develop tablets for WebOS? Which is "sponsored" by HP, a potential competitor?"

Permit me to answer a question with another question.

"Will a company such as say, Samsung or HTC, develop tablets for Android? Which is "sponsored" by Google, a potential competitor?"

0
0
Bronze badge

The WebOS advantage.

WebOS has to stay pretty tight, hardware-wise. Android's biggest problem is that it's available in too many formats, so the user experience is very much hardware dependent. As WebOS isn't (currently) hardware agnostic, whereas Android is (hence lack of acceleration), WebOS's niche has to be on the user experience. As a commoditised OS, it has a feeling of genericity, but if the hardware is less generic, it will continue to outperform Android (and possibly also WinPhone) making it a candidate for OS of choice for anyone trying to produce an iPhone competitor.

0
0
Bronze badge

"Will a company such as say, Samsung or HTC, develop tablets for WebOS?"

Do PC manufacturers build machines optimized for Linux? Durr. Just put it on there.

Will be easier with "consumer" electronics. The WebOS code can be tailored to the hardware platform by the community.

0
0
Bronze badge
Boffin

@Bullseyed & Goat Jam

You are, with respect, both underestimating the business & marketing risk of a hardware manufacturer creating a physical tablet intended to run an OS and presumably apps ecosystem under significant control of a competitor.

PC manufacturing is not tablet manufacturing, PCs are far, far more interchangeable and I can become a "PC manufacturer" by buying some components and assembling them myself. Tablets are highly constrained devices.

Google did not start out as direct competitor. If Google had started out buying Motorola and then done Android, I doubt you'd have seen much uptake from the big boys. Even now, Google has taken a risky gamble with Motorola, even though Android is key to companies like Samsung (for now).

Two success scenarios I can see: #1 cheap, non-branded, Chinese/Taiwanese offerings, targetting WebOS, from manufacturers who don't _want_ to do the software. #2 something akin to the IBM PC's cloning by Compaq in the 80s. But everybody's learned since how IBM was "foolish" to lose control of its platform that way - will they expect that level of enlightened disengagement from HP now?

I see more AmigaOS potential however. Perennial hardware announcements, enthusiasts only need apply.

0
0
Silver badge

"You are, with respect, both underestimating the business & marketing risk of a hardware manufacturer creating a physical tablet intended to run an OS and presumably apps ecosystem under significant control of a competitor"

Or not.

Google (now) owns Motorola Mobility, who is a direct competitor to Samsung, HTC, et al.

I'm not sure what the difference is here.

0
0
Linux

WebOS is vapourware

Did Not Finish. WebNuk'em if ever etc. Let's see the code first, then we talk

0
3
Bronze badge

This reply is a figment of your imagination

brought to you by a Pre running WebOS 2 . (Thanks to a 'community'.)

3
0

The WebOS "community" is a figment of yours

Three devices - Pre, Pixi, and HP Touchpad. (Okay, five, counting the two no one has ever heard of.) No genuine support from any hardware manufacturer throughout the entire life of the platform -- and certainly no sign of any new devices ever happening again. One person, throughout my entire personal and professional lives, who actually owns a WebOS device -- the least tech-savvy employee of any client I've got, blue-haired old ladies emphatically included. And the only sign of life I've seen out of the "community" is a few people turning up on El Reg threads to say "There's a community!" -- whereas, with iOS and Android, the problem lies in getting their partisans to shut up.

I've had Palm devices for over a decade; I've got a TX in my pocket right now. If anyone ever wanted to love WebOS, it's me. But there's nothing there to love, just a big cloud of vapor that's only rarely crystallized into anything -- and never into anything worthwhile.

1
1
Silver badge

users don't care

What the TouchPad firesale tells us is end users don't really care what OS is running if the price is right and they don't really care how big the relevant app market is if the price is low enough.

It's fun arguing the dev side of the tablet wars but the public see a consumer device and as long as it has a working browser, passable email and some chance of running apps, don't look much further than the price. Its already a commodity item from their POV. Hardly news, the ongoing sales of piss poor chinese phones tells us the buying public will buy anything cheap that looks superficially good enough.

That's why WebOS is largely irrelevant even if its not dead, the entire appeal was the sale price, the OS isn't a selling point. WebOS can live or die and the buying public won't even notice.

3
0
Bronze badge

Didn't Adobe do some groundwork in coding for different mobile devices?

Design the interface/user experience in Windows or on a Mac

code it to some standard (apparently iOS does more than the others if you know wot I mean)

export it

Apart from iOS there cannot be too much difference as (in the main) the chipsets are al the same?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Will it run

on my Blackberry Playbook

0
0
Thumb Down

There's a very simple explanation for why webOS is to all intents and purposes, dead. It's because no-one's using it for anything terribly important, and those who are still using it at all will more than likely be looking to replace their webOS devices with Android or iOS devices.

There are a number of reasons why large-scale open source projects happen - they usually involve 1) making money, 2) helping to develop something you already use, and 3) community involvement. There's also education and hobbyist pursuits, but these are normally edge cases or a precusor to the first three. webOS development won't make any money because no-one's using it, webOS development for itself isn't going to happen because no-one's using it, and a webOS community doesn't really exist any more because everyone's left it in droves. And there are much more compelling reasons to develop for iOS or Android (and to a lesser degree, Win8).

Open source development for things like Linux, FreeBSD and MySQL happened largely because these were the foremost technologies for powering a growing core of the net-connected world, and because they were started up by a few dedicated individuals who became pillars of the communities they generated as their software evolved.

HP *is* dumping webOS into the rubbish bin because they don't see it as being worth anything. Expecting a group of talented experts to come along and turn its worthless rotting corpse into the golden cow HP wanted it to be is rather out of touch with reality.

3
1
Silver badge
Linux

I'm not sure HP are expecting ROI on this

Once it goes FLOSS all you can earn is support fees - which will be minimal for consumer embedded devices!

Personally, I like the interface. I think it would be good as a media control centre - a card per video / audio source, plus extras for other apps - email, twitter or whatever. Ideal interface would probably be a small BT keyboard with a large multitouch trackpad, or a touchpad mirror of what's on the main screen, though you might be able to get away with a Wii/kinect type wand. Add a decent vnc client and you have an interface to back-end servers (home NAS/media server/linux/windows/osx) which don't have a screen.

Yes, android can do all of this, but I like the webos interface more, even if the applications aren't currently as capable. Having large numbers of applications in a store might be moot for a non-mobile smart TV type application.

1
0
Bronze badge

Not true.

What HP get is the ability to continue to sell WebOS devices, using existing staff expertise, rather than having to "retool" to support WinPhone or Android.

WebOS needs a critical mass that HP can't provide in order to be a success, so they need others to pick it up and make it a viable mass-market option, therefore attracting developers (who will mostly be looking to cross-compile products available on other platforms anyway).

Maybe this isn't "return on investment" -- maybe it's simply "cutting their losses" -- but it's either the most profitable or least loss-making option for the moment.

1
1
Silver badge
Pint

No problem

Just give webOS to Linus brother. If you can find one.

0
0
Bronze badge

I think that a point is being missed.....

I used a WebOS Palm.

Now I don't know who has used it in anger here, but I have. Your comments may be valid up to a point. But the one thing that WebOS has, over Android so far, is usability. It is an absolute joy to use. The calender integration, the built in mail client, the card system, the ability to see what is running and end it if you wish. Awesome. It fact it is the only UI that really compares to the Apple devices. (I haven't used ICS yet so ymmv).

If WebOS was given decent hardware and, at the time, flash player, it would have made more than the little splash it did.

The Open Source community normally gets behind something that is good, fun to develop etc. This is what I see with WebOS. Yes, HP f*cked a lot of people over, lot of faithful people, but that doesn't change the intrinsic nature of WebOS that Palm developed.

I am not alone in thinking this way. I am technically orientated, enjoy messing around behind the scenes etc, but what I want, more than anything else, is a phone that works intuitively, and as far as I can see, WebOS was far superior to an Android based phone there, and I am not even going to comment on Symbian. I think it has a good chance on that fact alone.

If Nokia had bought Palm, then that OS on Nokia tech would have found an eager buyer here, and many others. As it is, I suspect that Elop did them a major disservice.

Unless Google come up with truly intuitive UI, WebOS may surprise you all......

5
0

'Elop' is 'pole' backwards

Am I the first to notice?

0
1
Thumb Up

Sink or swim

Firstly I should declare an interest in that I work for HP but nowhere near the webOS division and not long enough to have any kind of slovenly sycophantic reaction.

OK, now that that's out of the way.....My wife has an iPad2, I have a Touchpad, we both have Android phones and we both own laptops with Windows 7 on them. The only thing I don't have is a Linux box! So I've used all of the OS's out there and I think i actually prefer webOS. I got the Touchpad because it was cheap and all the other tablets were overpriced - Samsung Galaxy 10.1 for instance. And yes, I have put Android on my Touchpad but you know what? I never use it. I boot into webOS and use the pretty decent browser, I bought Splashtop HD and Kalemsoft Media player for about £10 between them and l now have a very nice OS on a decent device that does what I want it to do.

And that's the point - I believe someone hinted at it earlier - users i.e. chip eaters, i.e. not us who have accounts on El Reg, neither know nor care about which OS is on a device. They might have heard of Android and think "that's quite good isn't it?" but they really don't know. Is it easy to use, does it have flash player, can I watch videos and browse youtube, are there any cool games and apps. Those are the questions a consumer asks. And webOS answers yes to all of them pretty emphatically. No, it's not perfect and it has some mildly annoying little omissions but in general I find it less limiting that iOS, less confusing than Android and very good all round experience. If there were more apps for webOS to entice users then I think it will get taken up.

If HP are really commited to it then they'll offer free licenses for a couple of years to hardware manufacturers, offer developers a good rate of return and let the market do the rest. If the webOS tablet looks just as good as but costs less than the Android or iOS tablet which one will the average consumer buy?

Of course if they're not commited and just expect the developer community to accomplish what they couldn't then webOS will die a slow and painful death and be relegated to running HP printers.

3
0
Bronze badge

Web OS internals it the WebOS open source community. If HP works closely with them, THEY can be the stewards for WebOS. They've already done amazing things with WebOS but with complete sourcecode and a call to arms round the world for open source contributors, I think that there would be quite a bit of interest in development. Web OS customers who were burned by HP and their mishandling of WebOS, would take interest, given WebOS Internals being behind it.

2
0
Coat

There's hope for WebOS ...

... and next year will be the year of Linux on the desktop

0
0

Drivers, drivers, drivers

HP needs, desperately, to get a library of drivers built for the majority of components. Personally, I'd target the WinPhone hardware specs first, since most manufacturers have one or two WinPhone devices they could use to experiment with WebOS and that haven't been flying off of shelves.

If drivers for new platforms like nVidia's Tegra2 aren't forthcoming, we'll be stuck with devices based on the current Qualcomm and TI chipset families. That will exile WebOS to the Coby and Pantech devices.

HP should also get some Intel involvement. Intel doesn't have an OS for their MID devices. Meego went nowhere and WebOS at least has thousands of apps, developers, and several hundred thousand users. If Intel's reference designs ran WebOS, it's possible a couple of those Cobys and Pantechs of the world will be willing to produce that reference model,which would be at least an upper-middle tier product.

1
0
Unhappy

I have a touchpad, but I have one word for you:

Betamax

:-(

0
0
Linux

TouchPad + CyanogenMod 7 = best VFM tablet of 2011

If you could actually get a firesale TouchPad (I did), the fact that you could put CyanogenMod 7 (Android 2.3.7) with CM9 due next year too (Android 4) and dual boot between webOS and Android was pretty unique amongst phones/tablets. For the first few months, I tweaked my TouchPad on the webOS side enormously (Preware, Uberkernel, Govnah, patches to speed it up), but it got less and less use over time!

Why? Well, it's the holes in the webOS app catalogue that bothered me the most. Some of those holes were due to HP refusing to release UK versions of US webOS apps such as Amazon Kindle [I had to fake my registration country to US to get it] or the HP Movie Store [I peeked at it and was appalled as the prices mind you!]). Having region-specific stores and promo apps codes is horrendous, especially when you can't see any "rights" reasons for many of the differences.

Also, crowing when you had 1,000 apps on the webOS platform that were TouchPad compatible (and many thousands more that provided a phone-emulated dismal experience) was not a good PR move when Android and iOS tablets have an order of magnitude more.

So when CyanogenMod came along, I jumped ship to Android on the TouchPad and have been a happy bunny ever since. Games are way better on Android and there's even MAMEdroid and Beebdroid for emulation of 80's classics. Loads of free high quality chess and Sudoku programs on Android (the few on Android either aren't TouchPad compatible or you have to pay for them) are also available if you're into more cerebral puzzles.

I couldn't find a decent free video player that would play all the common formats on webOS at all (which you'd think was a critical app for webOS on tablets, but nope), but there's a couple of dozen free ones to choose from on Android. Heck, early webOS releases didn't even come with a free proper camera app that could take photos and videos, FFS!

Ultimately, a vibrant app store can take a year or so to build up a critical app. HP pulling the rug uder webOS hardware less than 50 days after release has meant that no-one can buy a brand new webOS device and this in turn will inevitably lead to developers gradually leaving the platform for iOS or Android. HP or another OEM needs to get more webOS-using hardware out there or its future remains grim.

Yes, the TouchPad was the best bargain tablet of the year (totally ignored by El Reg's year-end review of 2011 tablets, which was a ludicrous omission - at one point it was world's #2 best-selling tablet!), but unless someone follows up with a TouchPad/Pre successor, it'll be the swansong for webOS.

0
0

This post brought to you by webOS on Sprint Palm Pre

About 40 years ago someone said "The purpose of software is to sell hardware." The buzz.these days seems to take the opposite view. (Allow me a moment to pause Pandora so I can think...) Amidst abundant speculation on both sides of the fence let me say without hardware ANYsoftware is useless. I've seen many OSs come and go from OS 360 to today and none was ever perfect but they all served their customer base in some way deemed beneficial until they evolved to the next stage. WebOS is a good OS in its infancy. If nurtured and cared for it will grow to maturity and benefit its users. If not it will fade from view.

Apps are a personal thing; what some find valuable are trash to someone else. Except to extend the OS and provide function otherwise not available, apps are what makes hardware do things in which users see value. The fact that every user is different keeps the target moving for developers.

I, personaly, want webOS to succeed. Even in its present state it has the potential to dominate the industry in ways we haven't imagined. Go webOS!

1
0
FAIL

"A lack of hardware acceleration has left it feeling sluggish"

Matt, please do your research before saying things like that.

1
0
This topic is closed for new posts.