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The year of WebOS and open source?

HP recently followed up its December plan to release its WebOS mobile platform and development tools with a proposed timeline.  The company also recently released Enyo 2.0, the webOS developer’s tool that enables users to distribute their Enyo-based webOS applications across other platforms. When it’s all said and done, WebOS will be given to the open source community under an Apache license 2.0.

Developers were hoping to have the open source version of WebOS at all at once; however HP announced that the platform and its supporting tools will be released in installments running through September. The first version, Open WebOS 1.0, will be converted to a standard Linux kernel which will make it easier to port to different hardware.

It has been a winding road for WebOS since it was first introduced by Palm in January 2009 as the successor to Palm OS. After Palm was acquired by HP in April 2010, webOS was released to new HP devices. It was practically left for dead, after product line changes and complicated corporate shuffling at the top of HP.

Its troubled path since Palm’s acquisition by HP has caused experts to doubt webOS’s outlook. Al Hilwa, program director for IDC, said it will face an uphill battle.

“The battle for mobile platforms appears to have narrowed considerably,” Hilwa said, “And it is difficult and unrealistic at this point to expect WebOS to see a recovery back into that market.” In a smartphone poll performed by Nielsen in Q2 2011, webOS only had a 2 percent market share in the U.S. compared to 39 percent for Android and 28 percent that for Apple iOS.

However, Hilwa believes that the flexibility of webOS may help the platform become relevant in the future.

“It is quite possible that hardware vendors in the embedded space can take WebOS up for appropriate projects,” Hilwa said, in an email message. “Also, there are parts of WebOS, such as the development framework, that may be used independently.”

This month, HP expects to release and intended project governance model, QT WebKit extensions, JavaScript core, and UI Enyo widgets. In March, HP is set to release graphics extensions, LevelDB, USB extensions. An update for Enyo (2.1), the release of Ares 2.0, and Node services are expected for April. July sets up the ground for September with the release of a system manager dubbed, Luna, a system manager bus, core applications, and another update of Enyo (2.2). The Open webOS beta will be released in August, the company said. – Ryan Punzalan

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