Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman finally announced the fate of operating system WebOS this morning, after the company previously announced that it was ceasing the development of all smartphones and tablets running Palm’s webOS platform. The actual software’s fate was yet to be determined. HP said today that it will be making the webOS code open source.
We sat down with Whitman and HP board member Marc Andreessen to speak about this news and what it means for the company. “We are so excited about webOS and realized that the very best thing to do is to open source the technology, contribute to it and invest in it,” she explains to TechCrunch. “We will harness the power of the community to make this a better alternative to to other operating systems.”
HP said today that developers, partners, HP engineers and other hardware manufacturers can deliver ongoing enhancements and new versions of WebOS into the marketplace. HP also will contribute ENYO, the application framework for WebOS, to the community in the near future along with a plan for the remaining components of the user space.
You can see Whitman’s full memo to HP employees here.
So what about tablets and WebOS? Andreessen says that because of the open source model, we’ll have a future with webOS-powered tablets and says HP will be one of those companies that will develop webOS tablets. Whitman says this may not happen in 2012, but will probably take place in 2013. She alluded to this a few weeks ago but it is certainly interesting that HP is going to be developing future hardware products on the WebOS operating system.
UPDATE: HP wanted to clarify that Whitman said HP could make WebOS-powered tablets in 2013.
While we know that HP is ceasing development of WebOS in phones, it’s interesting that the company is continuing to bet on the OS in tablets.
In 2012, Whitman is planning for a Windows 8 tablet. “We’ll continue to invest in the existing tablet ecosystem” and in the near term “will bet heavily with Windows.”
As my colleague Matt Burns wrote recently, HP is looking better under Whitman’s leadership after having a rough patch. After taking the helm, Whitman decided to keep the Personal Systems Group within HP. The company then beat Wall Street’s estimates in the fourth quarter.
With respect to whether HP can be a consumer and an enterprise company, Whitman believes that the company can continue to do both and says that the company’s current strength is that it is able to be successful in both product areas. “If you ask any guy on the street about what HP is known for, it would be computers,” she says.