webOS: The Little Mobile OS That Could

Open_webOS_Galaxy_Nexus

Many grew up with The Little Engine That Could, a tale about the power of optimism and hard work. The goal is to spread hope through the metaphor of a little blue engine that defied all odds despite what others say. To keep motivated, the little engine chants, “I think I can; I think I can; I think I can.”

Open Source: a philosophy, or pragmatic methodology that promotes free redistribution and access to an end product’s design and implementation details.

From it’s beginnings with the Palm Pre in 2009, webOS has always been a unique animal in the mobile device market. Using the metaphor of cards that could be flung off the screen to terminate tasks, its approach to multitasking was unique at a time when iOS couldn’t / wouldn’t do it. The Palm Pre itself was actually a pretty nice device at the time, but like everything else Palm did, they bungled webOS and it never really took off. In April 2010, HP acquired the OS. After numerous, half-hearted attempts to take the OS forward, including the release of the HP TouchPad to compete in the expanding tablet market, they finally announced that they would halt device production and webOS development in August 2011. This lead to speculation that webOS would be killed off or sold to the highest bidder.

XDA exists so that like-minded developers can come and share their work and knowledge, as well as learn from others. We encourage open source development because that’s how true innovation happens. And without open source development, our favorite OS Android would not be where it is today. So when HP announced late last year that webOS would be open sourced rather than killed, the development community leaped at the news.

Except for a tidbit earlier this year about an HTC Evo 3D running a very dirty port of webOS, all has been mostly quiet on the Open webOS front. But now word is leaking out from the webOS-Ports team that webOS is being ported to the Galaxy Nexus. They have provided a video showing the device booted up with webOS and WiFi working, but it is quite obvious that hardware acceleration is drastically needed before this is actually usable—not to mention all of the phone functions, etc.

What makes this extremely interesting is that we are seeing the epitome of open source development. We have software—in this case a mobile OS—that the manufacturer no longer wishes to or is capable of supporting and improving. Then, you have a group of developers who see the potential of said software. And after a lot of hard (often thankless) work, we have the makings of another alternative for the mobile community. This is the crux of what makes XDA what it is. We look forward to seeing where this project goes.

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