Saturday, December 10, 2011

Web OS Open Sourced - A Good Thing

Is HP's decision to turn WebOS into an open source project a bad thing? Will it fail?

I just guess at these things most of time. Thus the name of my blog. The only insight I have is an understanding of history.

Open source projects can be spectacularly successful, but often die. A whole OS - with Linux/Debian/etc out there - why bother to develop for WebOS? Android would mop it up - of course.

I criticize Android for the same reason I like Apple; it is all the stuff that is thought through, not the paint job, the size of the screen, or the even the icons. It is the difference of going through the process of designing something versus copying someone else's work. There is simply no shortcut. It shows up when you use an Android device (or, even better, several different ones) and a iPhone. Google hasn't forced device developers to follow strict UI guidelines. There is plenty of ways to innovate inside of this space - Apple does it successfully, so do developers for iOS.

WebOS is interesting because it did not try to copy the iPhone. It is it's almost-fully realized OS and UI that it is some ways a different take on things. Perhaps with commodity, cheap tablets it will come back. Maybe as an embedded OS (which is what I think HP really wanted it for).

I guess I am happy that it turned out this way, because at least WebOS has some chance. The Palm Pilot had a lock on the market, and completely squandered it by failing to innovate. WebOS was the equivalent of a hail mary pass; trying to do just what Apple did, which was abandon their current OS for something completely new. There were some very smart people involved with it's development.

It would be a shame to see all this work simply die.