It's been ten months since HP open sourced webOS, the attractive Web-based operating system that proved to be the last hurrah for smartphone pioneer Palm. Today, the Open webOS team announced the availability of Open webOS 1.0, the first official build of the open source platform for both desktop and embedded environments.
This release includes support for the Enyo2 core application framework, the Nyx portability layer, support for the latest Qt framework and WebKit engine. It also includes the OpenEmbedded build system for embedded Linux environments, and also a desktop build. It also has the signature webOS "card-based" user experience and core apps (Web browser, email client, calendar and contacts, clocks and memos).
Thursday it was announced that an unofficial port of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean CyanogenMod 10 custom ROM was available for the discontinued webOS powered HP TouchPad, with a big early thanks to XDA-Developers forum member and Android developer James Sullins, aka jcsullins.
Though it's discontinued, and mostly a niche device, the HP TouchPad is no slouch in the hardware world. It sports a 9.7 inch, 1024 x 768 pixel display, a 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core processor, has 1GB of RAM, and 16GB to 32GB of storage. It is still a very solid tablet.
Hewlett-Packard announced on Friday that it is turning webOS software over to the open source community while still remaining a participant and investor in the project.
The future of WebOS has been uncertain since HP announced it was considering spinning off its consumer PC division to concentrate more on comprehensive cloud offerings for enterprise. Now that the company has decided to keep its PC systems division, WebOS looks like it will be going the way of the Android, except that it will be purely open source.
It was all hands on deck at HP Tuesday night: new CEO Meg Whitman wants to decide what to do with WebOS. HP is keeping its PC business, but there is no decision yet on the mobile platform, and some thought this would come last night.
According to The Verge -- although we can't pin down who their source is -- Whitman only kicked the can down the street, saying "it's really important to me to make the right decision, not the fast decision". Regardless, she is said to have promised a final word within the next three to four weeks.
Even though Palm is a dead brand, and the future of WebOS is uncertain now that HP is reconsidering its position in the consumer electronics market, the vanishingly popular TouchPad tablet today is receiving an over-the-air update to webOS 3.0.4.
According to HP on Tuesday, this update brings the TouchPad a new camera app, the ability to pair non-webOS devices with the TouchPad for call routing, improved support for Bluetooth keyboards, support for the OGG Vorbis music file extension, and the addition of online/offline status in the messaging client.
Like many of you, we spent hours slogging through HP's overwhelmed order system to get 2 TouchPads. They're giveaways for lucky readers, in appreciation for your loyalty. We really should do more of this.
But HP took more orders than it could fill from its stock of leftover TouchPads -- the product line killed just six weeks after retail sales started. We figured that was the end of our order, but then HP decided to produce one last batch of TouchPads, increasing the likelihood we might still get our two, for you.
HP announced it would cease production on its WebOS tablet, the TouchPad, just two months after releasing it because of a lack of consumer interest and because of an overall move by HP away from the consumer hardware space toward enterprise services, hardware, and printers.
But when HP slashed the price of the two TouchPad models to $99 and $149, they suddenly became the most desirable tablets on the market.
Despite its denials, Samsung still appears to be making a move for HP in some form. Reports had surfaced last week that the South Korean electronics maker was interested in purchasing HP's consumer PC business. The company quickly denied the rumors in a terse statement, calling the reports "not true".
The same publication that first published those rumors -- Taiwanese technology daily DigiTimes -- has come back saying that Samsung has hired a former HP executive to head its PC business, and also may be interested in HP's WebOS platform.
The following commentary is a guest post written by BetaNews reader Avatar X. A blogger from Mexico City, he has done software and tech reviews for the last 10 years.
One week ago today, 18 of August of 2011, HP discontinued webOS devices (Pre and TouchPad) and also announced their intention to sell or spin-off their PC business, in order to concentrate in the more lucrative and higher-margin markets of servers, cloud services and enterprise software.
One of the nice bonuses of the HP TouchPad is that it comes with a lifetime 50GB cloud storage account from Box for free. This is exactly ten times more storage than they offer standard users on their free tier.
With the sudden discontinuation of the TouchPad and the subsequent liquidation of all stock, this little bonus looks a lot sweeter, but we wondered if Box could pull out of the deal due to behind-the-scenes agreements and arrangements.
(Alternate title: "From Dead to Dead Last")
Now that webOS has zero official hardware manufacturers supporting it, Microsoft is hoping to lure webOS developers over to Windows Phone by giving them free hardware, training, developer tools, and so forth.
I failed to snag TouchPad, when HP was practically giving them away this weekend -- $99 for the 16GB model and $149 for the 32GB one. Like many other attempted or successful buyers, I was thinking: "Wouldn't it be great if this tablet ran Android?" Perhaps it will.
There's already a project underway to port Android to the TouchPad, which is sure to delight lots of people who wanted the hardware but couldn't care less about WebOS or don't see much future in it. HP insists WebOS will continue, but, c`mon, who will develop apps if there are no devices?
That's how a Best Buy employee described the line waiting to buy discounted HP TouchPads today outside the Mission Valley store in San Diego.
More than 100 people waited for the store to open, on a Sunday morning, to get one of about 30 TouchPads still in stock. They were sold out five minutes after the Best Buy opened.
So much for my heaping praise on Best Buy. The retailer has decided to unload its unsold stock of TouchPads after all. It's an atomic blast that will have grave consequences for Best Buy and, more importantly, its other tablet partners. Apple might just laugh all the way to the bank.
The problem is this: Best Buy is sitting on an inventory of as many as 245,000 TouchPads -- or was yesterday. Today, who knows how many there will be for how long. By midday yesterday, cheap TouchPads were sold out pretty much everywhere, except HP online. Today, Best Buy owns TouchPad sales and already has sold out its online stock. Now it's up to retail stores to clear inventory. Last week, my local Best Buy sold the 16GB TouchPad for $499.99. Today it's $99 -- $149 for the 32GB model -- for an attractive 9.7-inch tablet, running the well-reviewed WebOS.
If you're trying to get a $99 TouchPad but can't find it anywhere, blame Best Buy. Based on calls placed to a half-dozen of the stores today, Best Buy has refused to sell its huge stock of HP tablets, choosing to return them to HP instead. It's probably cheaper for HP to dump the TouchPads -- as in a landfill -- then to sell them. You can thank Best Buy, which is sitting on an estimated 245,000 units, for that and partly for the mess at HP's online store today.
But there's sense -- loads of it -- for Best Buy shipping back unsold TouchPads rather than putting the soon-to-be obsolete devices into the hands of greedy geeks. HP, which is spending more than $100 million liquidating tablet stock, will compensate Best Buy for inventory. Better to take that cash rather than collapse sales of other tablets and quite possibly create unrealistic expectations among regular shoppers about what tablets should sell for.