In the most dramatic stay of execution since Robin Hood shot an arrow through Little John's noose, HP has decided that webOS will live on as open source. And there was much merriment and backslappery throughout the land! Also: good work, HP. This couldn't have worked out better.
The news came today after months of uncertainty about the platform's future, with rumors ranging from death to a sale to a life of powering printer apps. Now, though? An unlimited future, according to HP's press release:
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 continue to actively develop for the platform as well, and perhaps most importantly will pursue "Good, transparent and inclusive governance to avoid fragmentation." Hopefully, then, succeeding where Android so far hasn't.
So what does this mean for you? Well, if you bought a $100 TouchPad, you may just have nabbed the tech deal of the decade (and there's another round this weekend!). But more importantly, there are suddenly four viable(ish) mobile choices where it seemed certain there would be three. And a promising, capable, different OS is now in the hands of any and everyone who wants to make it even better.
Updated: In a brief interview with the Verge, HP CEO Meg Whitman indicated that HP's not just committing to the platform; the company's going to invest in the hardware it supports, as well. That means HP tablets, most likely, though Whitman said smartphones were unlikely.
Of course, now that webOS is open source, anyone can make a tablet or phone or refrigerator on the platform. But if HP having skin in the hardware game means that they'll be aggressive about keeping the software competitive. More good news, on a day we were expecting the opposite.