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HP to make webOS open source, plans webOS tablets in 2013

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Hewlett-Packard plans to keep the webOS platform it acquired from Palm but will make the operating system open source, allowing developers and others to modify and expand on the platform. The decision brings a sense of finality to the fate of webOS, which has been uncertain ever since HP effectively killed its webOS device business in August.

Interestingly, HP also said it plans to build webOS-powered gadgets in the future. Although the company was reluctant to provide a specific timeframe and details, HP CEO Meg Whitman said HP likely will sell webOS tablets in 2013, according to TechCrunch. Whitman told The Verge that HP will not make smartphones. HP plans to build Windows 8 tablets next year.

That HP is planning webOS tablets comes as a surprise. The company in August discontinued sales of its webOS-powered TouchPad tablet (as well as its smartphone business), citing weak demand.

As for HP's plans to open source webOS, the company said it plans to continue to be active in the development and support of the platform. HP also will make the underlying code of webOS available under an open source license. The company said this will allow developers, partners, HP engineers and other hardware makers to enhance webOS and bring new versions to market.

HP will work with the open source community and will look to foster "good, transparent and inclusive governance to avoid fragmentation." Additionally, HP will contribute ENYO, the application framework for webOS, to the open source community in "the near future."

In an interview with The Verge, Whitman declined to discuss possible layoffs involved in the move.

In November HP wrote down a total of $1.67 billion in its fiscal fourth quarter related to its decision to wind down its webOS device business, the company said, giving a financial postscript to its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm in 2010.

HP said it booked a total charge to its operating income of $788 million related to the closure of the webOS device business, a move announced Aug. 18. On the company's earnings conference call for the fiscal fourth quarter, HP CFO Catherine Lesjak said the charge consisted of a net revenue reduction of $142 million related to a sales incentive program, $548 million in cost of sales due to supplier-related obligations and inventory reserves and $98 million in operating expenses and restructuring charges. In addition to that charge, HP also was hit with an impairment expense of $885 million against a carrying value of goodwill and purchased intangible assets related to the acquisition of Palm.

For more:
- see this TechCrunch article
- see this Verge article
- see this release
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this GigaOM post

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