HP Opts for Open Source With WebOS

Story updated with analyst comment from Maribel Lopez.

PALO ALTO, Calif. ( TheStreet) - HP ( HPQ) has ended months of speculation about the future of webOS, announcing plans to open source the acclaimed mobile OS.

The tech giant acquired webOS as part of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm last year. Rumors, however, have swirled around the technology since HP announced plans to ditch its WebOS hardware during the summer. Potential scenarios included selling off or licensing the operating system to other vendors.

HP CEO Meg Whitman

"webOS is the only platform designed from the ground up to be mobile, cloud-connected and scalable," explained HP CEO Meg Whitman, in a statement released on Friday. "By contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices."

The move, however, will disappoint those calling on HP to monetize the technology by licensing it out. Nonetheless, open sourcing Web OS should help drive future innovation by opening the software up to a broader ecosystem.

The PC giant will make the underlying code of webOS available under an open source license, it said, enabling developers, partners and other hardware manufacturers to enhance the technology and launch new versions.

HP also confirmed that it will contribute ENYO, the application framework for webOS, to the open-source community in the near future.

"I think this whole strategy is a way for HP to say, 'if we're going to resurrect webOS, we're going to put it on the market, let other people develop around it so that we're not spinning our engineering wheels on it,' " said Maribel Lopez, principal analyst at Lopez Research. "If HP does that, then maybe they can find a way to monetize it."

Famed for its strength in multitasking and video playback, experts have noted that webOS could also be used to drive printer connections to a range of devices, such as digital cameras.

In a surprise move, Whitman told the TechCrunch Web site on Friday that the company will launch webOS-powered tablets in 2013, fuelled by the software's push into open source.

HP has not yet responded to a request for comment on this story.

Shares of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm ended the week up 24 cents, or 0.87%, at $27.90.

-- Written by James Rogers in New York.

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