The latest move turns webOS into an open-source platform, meaning that any individual or company can use or make improvements for free provided they follow a few guidelines. Google Inc. also makes its Android mobile software available for cellphones and tablets under an open source license, although it keeps tight control of it.
Chief Executive Meg Whitman has said that WebOS is a fabulous technology that we don’t want to have go away. She called the decision to make it available using the open source model “a great answer.”
Under the plan, HP will continue to make enhancements to webOS, and the 600 or so employees who work on it will remain at HP. The company has no plans to build devices using webOS in 2012, but it might in future years, Ms. Whitman said.
She added HP will make a substantial investment in webOS, including paying the employees who work on it, but said it was “very manageable” in the context of HP, which has annual revenue of $127 billion and income of $7.1 billion.
In February, HP unveiled a tablet computer, the TouchPad, that ran webOS, along with some new smartphones, to much fanfare. It launched a big advertising campaign when the device finally launched in July.
But sales were slow, and then HP CEO Leo Apotheker announced six weeks after the tablet’s launch that the company would discontinue the iPad rival.