As promised, HP has shipped the beta release of Open webOS, the open source version of the web standards–based webOS mobile platform that was the last hurrah of the former Palm before HP absorbed it in 2010. More surprisingly, however, HP actually seems to be staffing up its webOS development team – an odd reversal of recent trends.
HP first detailed its schedule for the ambitious open source project in January, and so far it has managed to hit each milestone. With the beta version arriving on schedule, it seems reasonable to expect that Open webOS 1.0 will ship in September as planned.
The beta release is intended primarily for developers. It includes 54 webOS components totaling more than 450,000 lines of code, HP's webOS team explained in a blog post, and it provides developers with two separate build environments.
The desktop build is meant to be the primary development environment for improving the webOS experience itself. It runs on Ubuntu Linux, and as of the beta release it includes support for many applications, including the core webOS applications such as Calendar and Contacts, and also some third-party apps.
The mobile build is for hardware hackers who would like to see webOS running on new devices. It's based on the OpenEmbedded build framework and includes an ARM emulator that can run core webOS services. The team says it is working on a more advanced image for a future release that can boot to the full webOS experience.
In all, the beta is a generous gift to the open source community. The question is, however, who will use it? Among HP Touchpad owners, much of the recent excitement has been about wiping webOS from the devices and installing Android, an OS that would appear to have a much more promising future.
But webOS might not be down for the count just yet. Curiously, HP's jobs site lists more than 20 software engineering, project management, and design positions related to the platform, in both HP's Sunnyvale headquarters and its Shanghai, China location.
That might seem strange, considering that HP fired half of its webOS team in February. But new ideas seem to have been brewing since then. Industry scuttlebutt says HP has spun off its webOS division into a new and mysterious subsidiary company, called Gram.
HP still has not made a public announcement about Gram, but its job listings do seem to confirm that the subsidiary at least exists, even if they remain vague about what it aims to achieve. As one job posting reads:
We are a fast-paced startup with big ideas, talented people, the software assets of Palm and backed by HP. We built a new company to get the best of both worlds: small teams, fun and disruptive projects, with fast execution backed by HP for long-term success and disruption in the industry ...
In this role you will develop groundbreaking mobile products, working with a cross-functional team from product conception to ship date to define the interfaces that millions will use every day.
Your Reg hack leaves it to you, dear reader, to ponder just what that might mean.
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