Ina Fried and Arik Hesseldahl

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HP Is Keeping webOS, but Veer-Sizing It as Open Source Project

Hewlett-Packard is moments away from telling employees the fate of webOS, but for those who don’t want to wait, here’s the skinny.

The company is hanging on to the mobile operating system, according to multiple sources, but will submit it to the open source community. HP plans to make the source code available to software developers under an open source arrangement, which will give other hardware manufacturers the ability to work with it.

While the company isn’t necessarily going to announce any layoffs today, the effort will no doubt result in a smaller webOS team going forward, sources said. And whatever cuts happen, whether they get announced today or at a date in the near future, they would come on top of the 500 people already cut from the webOS division earlier this year.

The move marks yet another twist and turn in the saga of what once was Palm, a pioneer in the handheld computing arena. The company has had more lives than a cat already, having been part of U.S. Robotics, then 3Com, then spun off as a public company, split into parts, reborn under Jon Rubinstein and then sold to HP.

HP announced earlier this year it was killing off the hardware part of the webOS business and exploring alternatives for the software. When Meg Whitman took the helm she said she would take another look at things.

A few weeks back she held a meeting to tell staff that there was nothing yet to announce and then later promised a decision was coming before Christmas. And, well, now here it is, though whether webOS will really make a mark or just fade into obscurity remains an open question.

HP has already taken a massive write-down related to its $1.2 billion purchase of Palm in 2010.

Expectations were running high for the future of the platform at HP under prior CEOs Mark Hurd and Léo Apotheker. On Apotheker’s watch, the company launched the TouchPad tablet over the summer only to kill it and the entire webOS hardware business after sales failed to gain traction with consumers. The last TouchPads are now the subject of a fire sale on eBay.

(Update: And the official release is now out.)

HP to Contribute webOS to Open Source

HP to enable creativity of the community to accelerate the next-generation web-centric platform

PALO ALTO, Calif., Dec. 9, 2011 – HP today announced it will contribute the webOS software to the open source community.

HP plans to continue to be active in the development and support of webOS. By combining the innovative webOS platform with the development power of the open source community, there is the opportunity to significantly improve applications and web services for the next generation of devices.

webOS offers a number of benefits to the entire ecosystem of web applications. For developers, applications can be easily built using standard web technologies. In addition, its single integrated stack offers multiplatform portability. For device manufacturers, it provides a single web-centric platform to run across multiple devices. As a result, the end user benefits from a fast, immersive user experience.

―webOS is the only platform designed from the ground up to be mobile, cloud-connected and scalable,‖ said Meg Whitman, HP president and chief executive officer. ―By contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices.‖

HP will make the underlying code of webOS available under an open source license. Developers, partners, HP engineers and other hardware manufacturers can deliver ongoing enhancements and new versions into the marketplace.

HP will engage the open source community to help define the charter of the open source project under a set of operating principles: The goal of the project is to accelerate the open development of the webOS platform

HP will be an active participant and investor in the project

Good, transparent and inclusive governance to avoid fragmentation

Software will be provided as a pure open source project

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.

Beginning today, developers and customers are invited to provide input and suggestions at

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus