DroidMote Brings Remote Control Functionality To Your Device
If you’ve ever wanted to be able to take control of either your PC or another Android device from your phone or tablet, this app may be something worth looking into. DroidMote by XDA Senior Member zulu99 is an app that will allow you to do just that. In the developers own words:
“DroidMote is not only a remote mouse, a remote keyboard, a remote gamepad and a remote multi touch touchpad, but it is something more. In fact, with the Gamepad2Touch feature allows you to use all the applications and games that were developed to support only devices with touch screen. Imagine you want remote control a game, designed for touch screen devices on your large TV Full HD, with DroidMote you can.”
The application is composed of two parts: a client for the device you will be using as the remote controller and a server for the device(s) to be controlled. The device on which you are installing the server will require root access. Once the app is installed and both devices are connected to the same local network, you are all set. Compatible with all Android devices and PCs running either Windows or Linux, this is an incredibly versatile application.
The application thread contains a wealth of information pertaining to the app itself and how to set up everything to meet your needs, including details of remapping the keys and games that are compatible with its “real gamepad” emulation feature.
If this appeals to you, check it out by visiting the application thread.
App Review: Toggle in Your Notification Bar with Notification Toggle – XDA Developer TV
Do you have too many toggle widgets on your home screen? Would you like to toggle the on/off state of your Wi-Fi or other toggles on your notification bar? Well XDA Recognized Developer j4velin has provided us with a great application that brings this feature.
In this video TK reviews the Notification Toggle application. He shows the options of the application and shows how the application looks. TK steps you through all the setup screens of Notification Toggle. So check out this app review.
Compile CyanogenMod 10 for the Galaxy S
Since the Jelly Bean source was released, we’ve brought you news of a very large number of official and unofficial CyanogenMod 10 ports. Now, as new releases are beginning to wind down, various developers are writing up guides to show others how to do it. One early guide on compiling Jelly Bean from source was already covered on our Portal not too long ago. Now, more device specific guides are beginning to slip through the cracks, including for the Samsung Galaxy S I9000.
Posted here by XDA Senior Member pmos69, the guide builds on existing guides that teach how to compile CM9 from source—all fully credited, of course. It starts with the very basics, including installing Ubuntu packages, Android SDK, and Java. Then, it goes through that now familiar task of installing the repository.
After the set up, pmos69 walks users through how to compile the ROM and flash it to their devices. It is a very elementary guide, but perfect for those looking to start out and want to do so on the latest version of CyanogenMod 10. Additionally, there are tips on how to update the repository. While some may want more topics explained, it is quite easy to follow for even the most novice of users.
For more information, check out the original thread.
Team Win Recovery Project Updated to 2.2
Just about three months ago, we brought you news that the Team Win Recovery Project had received a massive update to version 2.1. April’s release largely heralded the start of a new age in recoveries—where one would no longer have to deal with cumbersome menus, instead interacting with a very user-friendly GUI.
It wasn’t simply about the GUI either. In addition to bringing an unrivaled level of UI polish, TWRP 2.1 offered users many advanced features such as update.zip queuing, a basic file manager, and dual storage support for Nandroid backups. Additionally, TWRP added support for the open source scripting engine OpenRecoveryScript, which works in conjunction with the previously covered GooManager.
How do you follow up something as revolutionary as TWRP 2.1? With TWRP 2.2, of course. That’s how! The new release builds on the previous offering by delivering many recovery “firsts.” For starters, this is the first recovery to feature on on-screen keyboard. Why would you want such a thing? How about naming and renaming Nandroid backups! TWRP 2.2 is also the only recovery to split extremely large backups, allowing users to backup and restore /data partitions larger than the 2 GB FAT32 file size limit.
In the words of XDA Recognized Developer Dees_Troy:
- On-screen keyboard in recovery! — supports long press, backspace repeat, and swipe left deletes everything left of the cursor
– Name new backups and rename existing backups
– Rename files and folders in the file manager
– Pseudo-terminal emulator
– Support decrypting an encrypted data partition on Galaxy Nexus (enter password using keyboard)
– Backup archive splitting — allows backup and restore of data partitions larger than 2GB
– Simplified XML layout support between resolutions
– Added dual storage selection radio buttons to zip install, backup, and restore pages
– Improved zip install compatibility
– Updated update-binary source code
– Numerous small bug fixes and improvements
Eager to get started? I know I am. Head to the links below to obtain the appropriate version for your device:
- HTC Amaze 4G
- HTC Desire S
- HTC Desire HD
- HTC Droid Incredible 2
- HTC EVO 4G LTE
- HTC EVO 3D CDMA
- HTC EVO 3D GSM
- HTC EVO Shift
- HTC One V CDMA
- HTC One S
- HTC One X International (endeavoru)
- HTC One X AT&T (evita)
- HTC Sensation
- HTC Thunderbolt
- HTC Vivid
- LG Optimus 2x
- Nexus S 4G
- Nexus S
- Sprint Galaxy Nexus
- Verizon Galaxy Nexus
- GSM Galaxy Nexus
- HP TouchPad
- Kindle Fire
- AT&T Galaxy Note
- Verizon Samsung Galaxy S III
- AT&T Samsung Skyrocket
- T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S II Hercules
- Asus Transformer
- Asus Transformer Prime
- Asus Transformer TF300T
- Nook Color
- Nook Tablet
- Motorola Atrix
- Motorola Photon 4G
- Acer Iconia Tab A500
Team Win Recovery Project Updated to 2.1
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: touch-based recoveries are the future. Aside from giving end users easier access to device firmware modification, they add a much needed element of polish to the Android hacking experience. While some may say that these upgrade recoveries take away from the feelings of thrill and excitement, I argue that they offer a more efficient interface and enable some truly unique new features not available in the recoveries of yesteryear.
In a rather large update to what is arguably the most popular touch-based recovery around, XDA Recognized Developer Dees_Troy presents to us Team Win Recovery Project (TWRP, for short) version 2.1. Aside from simply bringing a friendly UI, TWRP 2.1 packs a healthy feature punch by offering zip queuing, a basic file manager, and dual storage support for backups.
TWRP supports scripting via a new scripting engine called OpenRecoveryScript for use with GooManager. With ORS, users can install multiple update.zip files from within Android, wipe cache & dalvik, and run a backup. Furthermore, in the name of openness, Team Win has submitted ORS as a commit to ClockworkMod.
In the words of the developer:
Team Win Recovery Project 2.0, or twrp2 for short, is a custom recovery built with ease of use and customization in mind. We started from the ground up by taking AOSP recovery and loading it with the standard recovery options, then added a lot of our own features. It’s a fully touch driven user interface – no more volume rocker or power buttons to mash. The GUI is also fully XML driven and completely theme-able. You can change just about every aspect of the look and feel.
New features for version 2 of the recovery software:
Zip queuing as seen in TWRP 1.1.x is back
Dual storage capable (backup, restore, and install zips from internal or external storage – you choose)
Slider control (swipe to confirm most actions aka swipe to wipe)
Lockscreen (with slider to unlock)
Basic file manager (copy, move, delete, and chmod any file)
Added support for devices with /data/media (most Honeycomb tablets, new ICS devices like Galaxy Nexus)
Displays sizes of each partition in the backup menu
Added listbox GUI element (currently used for listing time zones)
Updated stock XML layouts to be more consistent and easier to port to different resolutions
XML layout files are significantly smaller
Partitions available backup are more accurate for some devices
Removed unneeded error messages (/misc errors, unable to stat sd-ext, etc.)
Fixed a bug with blkid detection code
Fixed bug where a blank line was inserted between every line of text during zip installs
Fixed a bug during zip installs where an invalid zip would cause TWRP to get stuck in the zip install
Added setting for themers to toggle simulation mode to make theming easier
New devices added – Galaxy Nexus GSM & CDMA (preview only, manual install), Acer Iconia Tab A500, HTC Vivid, Motorola Defy
Added support for .jpg images in the theme engine
Changed images for stock tablet theme – makes tablet builds about 500KB smaller
Removed unneeded non-GUI images from GUI – makes all builds about 100KB smaller
If you’re itching to get started, please visit the development threads listed below. If instead you are looking to theme the recovery, visit their theming guide.
- Acer Iconia Tab A500
- Amazon Kindle Fire
- Barnes & Noble Nook Color
- HTC Amaze 4G
- HTC EVO 3D CDMA
- HTC EVO 3D GSM
- HTC EVO Shift 4G
- HTC Sensation
- HTC Thunderbolt
- HTC Vivid
- HP TouchPad
- Motorola Atrix 4G
- Motorola Photon 4G
- Samsung Galaxy Nexus GSM
- Samsung Galaxy Nexus CDMA
- Samsung Nexus S
- Samsung Nexus S 4G
Load Ubuntu 11.10 on the Archos Gen8
Installing a Linux Distro on an Android device is always an interesting prospect. The idea of having an operating system like Linux, which is meant for real computers but can be run on practically everything, brings even more functionality to a device than it had with just the stock software. Its small footprint and low spec requirements make it just as good for most Android devices as Android itself.
For those carrying the Archos Gen8, your Ubuntu goodness is right around the corner. XDA Forum Member CalcProgrammer1, who’s brought Linux to tablets before, has been working on a build of Ubuntu to fully work with the Archos Gen8. Unfortunately, there’s still a ways to go, but users can experience most of what handheld Linux has to offer with the first release. Despite some problems with the wireless drivers and the occasional bug here and there, the Linux experience on the Gen8 seems to be pretty complete as, at the very least, the essential functions all still work.
In the words of the developer:
The display is working and the touchscreen works as well (calibrated correctly as I copied my calibration from my 11.04 install). It boots into Unity 2D which is the default. I’m having issues getting the wl1271 wireless module up, I have had it running once but NetworkManager said device was not ready despite being able to iwlist scan and see a list of AP’s and then connect to them manually.
So while there is still a lot of work to be done, a lot of work has already been done and Gen8 users are very close to have a fully functional Ubuntu to play with.
Check out the modification thread for additional information, some really fun modifications, and download links.
HP’s webOS Spotted Running on an EVO 3D; Open Sourcing Effort May Pay Off
Since HP announced the release of the webOS source code, the recently abandoned operating system has grown a rather loyal following. Progress has been made in homebrew development and in custom builds for webOS native devices. Many forum members have been clamoring for a port of webOS to Android devices for several months now. Initial ports were expected to appear for the Motorola Droid or its GSM counterpart, the Milestone, since the devices share the same OMAP3 3430 processor with the Palm Pre (the very first native webOS device).
Recently an HTC EVO 3D was spotted running a build of webOS 3.0, the version that came with the notorious HP TouchPad. Originally posted by Ryan Hope (@_puffthemagic_) on Twitter, the 3 still images of webOS running have now been supplemented with a YouTube video that can be found here. While not functional enough for actual use, the operating system boots without issue. Ryan originally started work on the port before HP released the source code for webOS. With the release of both the Android kernel and the full webOS source porting progress can only move forward from here. Could this mean widespread availability of webOS ports on Android devices soon? Depending on interest level and developer involvement, it is a possibility!
APK Makes Windows 95/98/XP and Linux Run on EVO 3D
Running computer operating systems on a phone is always an interesting experience. For most phones, booting into Linux is hard enough and Windows isn’t even an option. The HTC EVO 3D is not one of those phones.
XDA Senior Member mnomaanw has posted a method that will get Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows XP and Linux running on the HTC EVO 3D in a relatively easy process that can be done pretty quickly. Basically, all a user needs to do is download the required software, modify a file or two and run the apk. Wait for it to boot and you’re ready to go.
Controls are pretty easy to understand and make excellent use of the hardware as well as the home and menu buttons. The instructions are as follows:
- It emulate touchpad on touchscreen and left/right mouse buttons on volume
– You can also click touch screen to generate mouse left button click.(this does not work everytime)
– Back = BackSpace, Menu = Enter, left-upper corner click generates TAB
– left-lower corner click popups keyboard
For those who want to give their EVO 3D some Windows or Linux love, they can find all the downloads and instructions in the thread here but make sure to take the proper precautions, such as backing up your device.
HP Begins Open Sourcing Of webOS, Releases Enyo 1.0 and 2.0 Source Code
Since HP announced that it would open source webOS, there have been lots of questions on how exactly HP plans to do that, and what such a move could bring. While the future for webOS is still very much up in the air, the process of open sourcing the mobile operating system originally developed by Palm has now begun, with the release of the Enyo 1.0 source code and the introduction of the brand new Enyo 2.0.
The more significant thing here, however, is Enyo 2.0. HP is apparently keeping their promise to continue development of webOS, and Enyo 2.0 brings several advantages over its predecessor. It finally makes good on its original aim and is fully browser-independent, claiming to work in “any modern browser, desktop or mobile” as long as it supports HTML5. This could be an incentive for developers to build apps using Enyo, since it’ll work basically everywhere, even including other mobile and desktop operating systems – if it succeeds in creating a vibrant developer community and app ecosystem, it would make it much easier for HP to bring out new webOS devices in the future by negating one of its strongest shortcomings.
Even better, HP plans to bring Open webOS in “late summer” to owners of the discontinued TouchPad, and is even “looking” at all other webOS devices like the Pre, Pixi and Veer. While we can’t know yet whether webOS will be able to gain enough traction, this is certainly great news for owners of current webOS devices.
Sony (Not Sony Ericsson) Unveils the Xperia Ion
Back in October, we were greeted by news that Sony was set to buy out the remainder of Sony Ericsson for a cool $1.45 billion—a move made with the hopes of delivering better product integration and bolstering patent holdings. Fast forward two-and-a-half months, and now we have our first purely Sony phone since the 2001 merger—and what a phone it is!
The Xperia Ion by Sony will be the first Xperia-branded phone to pack 4G LTE connectivity. The goodness doesn’t stop with network speeds, as the Ion also comes loaded with a 4.6″ Reality display with Bravia technology and a massive 1280 x 720 resolution.
A beautiful screen and fast network mean nothing, however, if there isn’t enough grunt to back it up. Luckily, the Ion packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon S3, which mates the ARM Cortex A8-derived Scorpion CPU with the AMD Adreno 220 GPU. Sound familiar? It should—that’s the same SoC that’s powering the T-Mobile variant of the Galaxy S II, various HTC phones such as the Evo 3D, and even the hacker’s delight HP TouchPad. The memory and storage are equally impressive at 1 GB and 16 GB (expandable via microSD), respectively.
Unfortunately all is not peachy, as the Ion will launch with Android 2.3 Gingerbread rather than the oh-so-sweet Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. This being XDA, we are sure to see plenty of custom ROM ports within hours of release, but it’s always preferable when the OEMs at least pretend to care about what’s best for their customers. Given Sony’s recent track record with ICS updates, however, we remain hopeful that the Ion will officially receive ICS in a timely manner.
Has the Xperia Ion made the short list for your next device upgrade? Let us know in the comments section below!
Looking Back At 2011
2011 is about to come to an end, and it’s been an impressive year for us. We’ve grown more than 50% year-over-year, while the adoption of smartphones is also growing like crazy, with Android coming out on top in terms of marketshare, Windows Phone going from very small to very small, and Windows Mobile finally fading into irrelevance. And that August 2011 was probably the most eventful month in tech history…
So, let’s take a look at what happened this year, from a smartphone enthusiast’s standpoint. Make yourself comfortable, for it’s a long read.
HTC HD2 still popular
Surprisingly, despite a slew of new Android devices released this year, none of them managed to surpass a now two-year old device, one that originally shipped with Windows Mobile, in terms of popularity and development activity here on xda-developers. It’s the HTC HD2.
This was in no doubt helped by some big breakthroughs that happened just around the beginning of 2011: MAGLDR was released, allowing you to boot directly into Android and thus completely bypass Windows Mobile; a few weeks later, Windows Phone 7 was ported. But I won’t go into too much detail here – I’ve previously written a 2,000-word essay about the story of the HTC HD2, in case you’re interested.
The patent wars…
Google has certainly earned a lot of goodwill from enthusiasts by keeping Android open source. However, not only has a study found that Android is, by far, the least open among seven other open source projects including Linux, Mozilla and Symbian, but it also seems to infringe lots of patents.
The Android patent saga didn’t begin this year: Apple sued HTC back in March 2010, and Oracle filed its lawsuit against Google five months later, in August. However, it was only with the aggressive suing and counter-suing between Apple and Samsung, started by the former in April 2011, that the whole thing really blew up. Dubbed as the “patent wars”, they are currently being fought out in nearly two dozen lawsuits in at least ten countries all over the world, with the outcome still very much open.
…make Google buy Motorola
In August, presumably to protect Android and its hardware partners, Google surprisingly bought Motorola Mobility, which owns over 17,000 patents and has several thousand more pending, compared to the less than 1,000 patents Google holds. This led to speculation that Google might either kill off Motorola’s unprofitable hardware business in order to focus on its patents, or utilize its hardware business to manufacture its own Android devices.
So far, neither has happened. In fact, it’s both unclear whether Motorola’s patents are really strong enough to fend off Apple, Oracle and Microsoft, and Motorola still makes its own devices, with the newest Google Nexus device actually coming from Samsung.
Android grows up…
Yes, again. Last year’s Nexus S introduced us to Android 2.3 Gingerbread, originally rumored to be the major overhaul that Android 3.0 Honeycomb partially turned out to be. But Honeycomb was designed exclusively for tablets, and never gained much traction with developers or consumers – Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich and launched on the Galaxy Nexus, set out to change this.
It not only unified smartphone and tablet versions, but finally managed to overcome Android’s biggest weakness to date: its UI, which was overly complex, inconsistent, and laggy. Ice Cream Sandwich still may not be as polished as iOS or as beautiful as Windows Phone 7, but with all of Android’s other strengths, it has in many ways surpassed the competition.
…while HTC struggles
Ah, HTC, that obscure Taiwanese OEM turned billion-dollar smartphone behemoth. Its brand name is now more valuable than that of Acer, and it has had record quarter after record quarter. But not anymore – its projection for the fourth quarter is negative.
Of course, that’s due in part to the highly anticipated launch of the iPhone 4S, but Samsung is still doing fine; since they introduced the Galaxy S and were chosen as the second manufacturer for a Nexus device, they’ve surpassed HTC both in marketshare and popularity in our forums. That’s because HTC is lacking in innovation: it can neither compete with Apple in terms of industrial design, nor with Samsung in terms of specifications. Just look at the Rezound, which has similar specs to the Galaxy Nexus, but is about ten times as thick.
With smartphones going mainstream, HTC has gone mainstream. Unfortunately, without other businesses besides smartphones to bring in money, it doesn’t seem too competitive right now. Hopefully, their strategy for the new year of bringing fewer, but better phones will turn them around.
Nokia goes Windows Phone…
In February, a rallying memo by Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, who previously worked for Microsoft, leaked. In the memo, he compared Nokia to a man standing on a burning platform, who had no choice but to jump into the ice-cold water to be rescued. It was a brutally honest comparison, acknowledging that Symbian simply had no chance in the smartphone market – it was the burning platform. And, a few days later at Nokia World, it turned out that Windows Phone would be the ice-cold water.
Meanwhile, Windows Phone 7 got off to a rocky start. Praised for its Metro design language, but hampered by a lack of basic features, it launched with little fanfare, and reports further indicated that retail sales persons actively pushed people away from Windows Phone to Android, telling potential customers that it was laggy and had viruses. There was a big perception problem, and sales were abysmal. Furthermore, the first update, NoDo, which, among others, brought copy-and-paste, was heavily delayed by carriers, despite the initial promise of unified and timely updates.
Things started to get better with the first big update called Mango, which bumped the version number to Windows Phone 7.5. It generally received critical acclaim, and rolled out within a few weeks in late September and early October to all devices, adding lots of improvements and new features such as multitasking. Starting in October, the second wave of Windows Phones was introduced. The spec bumps were only minor, but the devices were still big improvements over the first generation; standing out, of course, was Nokia’s new Lumia 800, with its universally praised industrial design.
…and Windows 8 too
In September, at its first BUILD conference, Microsoft showed off Windows 8. It’s still going to be Windows, but with a Metro-layer underneath that looks and feels very similar to Metro on Windows Phone, and will run on both x86 and ARM processors. The traditional desktop is still there, at least on x86-based machines, but relegated to the same status as other Metro apps. With further decreased system requirements, Microsoft hopes that Windows 8 can be successful on both tablets and traditional PCs, though there are doubts whether the Metro interface is really suited for regular desktops.
Whether you like it or not, you’ll probably have to get accustomed to Metro, as Microsoft is fully embracing it. Even the Xbox got a Metro-style overhaul this year. Heck, we even added Windows 8 subforums.
HP kills and unkills webOS
HP stumbled big in August. Then-CEO Leo Apotheker wanted to turn HP into a enterprise software company, similar to the German SAP, which he just left. To that effect, he announced that HP would be selling off its Personal Systems Group – that is, its PC division, the biggest in the world, and the recently purchased Palm assets, including webOS. As an immediate result, the TouchPad tablets were sold off at $99, a ridiculously low price. Eventually, HP cleared all of its inventory, catapulting webOS just behind iOS in terms of tablet marketshare, easily surpassing Android. How ironic.
Ultimately, Apotheker’s plan didn’t work out, damaged HP, stock prices fell, and he was fired. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman was appointed as his successor and quickly stopped the spin-off of the PSG. The decision about webOS, however, wasn’t completely reversed; instead, HP decided to contribute webOS to open source, with the future remaining a very uncertain one, as I previously wrote.
Steve Jobs (1955-2011)
Besides Google’s purchase of Motorola and HP’s stumbling, the third big thing that happened in August was Steve Jobs resigning as CEO of Apple. Sadly, he later died in October, just before the unveiling of the iPhone 4S.
Even though we’re definitely not an iPhone site, the impact Apple has made on the smartphone – and computer and music – industry is huge and, mostly, for the better. With Pixar, Steve Jobs is also resonsible for the first entirely CGI-made movie, Toy Story, which went on to revolutionize its respective industry. His genius, vision and management skills are undisputed, and we say: rest in peace, Steve Jobs.
AT&T doesn’t get T-Mobile
Well, AT&T tried to buy T-Mobile, but due to strong opposition by consumer groups and antitrust regulators, eventually backed off. This may sound like good news, but since T-Mobile is still struggling financially, its parent company, Deutsche Telekom, is still looking for ways to consolidate its US business. With the purchase by AT&T failed, we’ll have to wait and see what they’ll do in the future.
By now, you have probably heard about Carrier IQ, a story which we helped break. A YouTube video by Trevor Eckhart, known as TrevE in the forums, showed Carrier IQ logging keystrokes, text messages, applications and basically just everything that can be logged on an HTC Android device. It was not known whether any of this data was actually sent to Carrier IQ or just stored on the phone, but considering how private that data was, you could definitely expect some transparency and clarification from Carrier IQ. However, instead of cooperating, Carrier IQ sent Eckhardt a cease-and-desist letter, which was later redacted thanks to the involvement of the EFF.
But at that point, the story had already blown up and out of control. In the end, it’s perfectly legit and certainly understandable that carriers need to track their network performance, which definitely is in the interest of consumers; however, the lack of transparency and communication was pretty damning.
To give you an overview of the whole saga, I’ve collected and listed all articles on our portals concerning Carrier IQ, in chronological order.
- Careful What You Do On Your EVO 3D – You Are Being Watched!
- HTC’s Statement Regarding CIQ Data Collection
- HTC Responds Once Again…
- Remember the CIQ Apps Found In HTC Devices? Well, There Is More And It Isn’t Pretty…
- Carriers Take Cover – Privacy Notices Start Rolling Out
- The Rootkit Of All Evil – CIQ (this was the article that made this whole thing blow up)
- More on Carrier IQ
- Carrier-IQ Tries To Sue TrevE
- Carrier IQ Creeps Out Everyone
- Carrier IQ Releases a Report, FBI is Silent
- Al Franken’s Pursuit of “Carrier IQ”
- EFF Releases IQIQ to Decode Carrier IQ Profiles
New portal, new admin
Finally, xda-developers has undergone some changes too. You’ve most definitely noticed the new look of our portal, and, if you’ve missed it, we also have a new portal admin since this week, Russell Holly.
So, yeah, thanks for reading this article, thanks for reading xda-developers, thanks for doing awesome stuff in the forums.
And… a happy new year from the news writer team!
The Quietest Whimper WebOS Could Muster – XDA TV
In this week’s XDA TV Recap, azrienoch takes us through some information about Cyanogenmod 9 and Ice Cream Sandwich, and the scandal of Verizon’s choice to sully the Nexus ideal. The big story is, of course, Hewlett Packard’s decision to open source WebOS. Is this the salvation or damnation of Palm’s firstborn son? Azrienoch explains his thoughts (on a poetic note). Check out the video! (more…)
Editorial: What Does the Future Hold for WebOS?
Since HP announced yesterday that it would contribute WebOS to the open source community, there’s been a lot of uncertainty as to its future. Of course, it’s nice to have another open source platform, and yes, WebOS hasn’t been killed off, so that’s the good news; what this means for the platform, developers, and, ultimately, consumers, however, is another question altogether. Just making WebOS open source doesn’t necessarily stop it from fading into irrelevance.
First and foremost, this move is an easy way to stop losing money: a formal discontinuation would involve write-offs on earnings, which may cost more than simply letting a few people continue working on it, with the community taking care of the rest. In this case, it’s worrying that HP didn’t sell off its WebOS/Palm assets, which implies that it couldn’t find any buyers. But for now, let’s give HP the benefit of doubt and assume the open-sourcing was actually a conscious decision.
Despite little consumer success, WebOS has always had a very active homebrew community, which HP is obviously counting on for help in further development. According to a poll on PreCentral, most current WebOS users are quite happy with this news; after all, open source is the reason Android took off, right?
Android, at the time of its introduction, was clearly marketed as the anti-iPhone: to device vendors that wanted a finger-friendly alternative to Windows Mobile and Symbian, carriers looking to diversify their portfolio, and consumers who couldn’t afford or didn’t want an iPhone. Still, initial sales were lackluster; it was only with massive marketing campaigns for the original Motorola Droid and high-end devices like the HTC Desire that Android picked up steam in early 2010. With that, and lots of backing from Google, came the developers and apps, which finally established Android as a viable platform.
WebOS never had any of these. Palm alone didn’t have enough cash, and even HP had no chance against Google, HTC, Samsung, Motorola et al. Most importantly, the platform never attracted many developers, with only about 7.000 apps in its app catalog (compare that to over half a million for Android and 40.000 for Windows Phone).
So, we’re coming to the final pitfall that’s hindered WebOS in the past and will continue to hinder it even more in the future: hardware. At the time of its original launch in mid-2009, the Pre was a quite decent device, but two years later, HP simply wasn’t able to compete in the race to faster processors, bigger screens, and better design. Therefore, the big question is: How are people actually going to use WebOS in the future?
That is, on what devices?
While HP is considering to make WebOS tablets in 2013, they definitely won’t make any more smartphones. And there aren’t any obvious reasons why other hardware vendors should use WebOS instead of Android or Windows Phone, both of which have stronger developer support.
In the end, what’s left are current owners of WebOS devices, who, despite everything, can be happy with HP’s decision. Since the TouchPad firesale, even its most fervent supporters should have realized that WebOS is never going to become a mainstream success; instead, they – and all those deal hunters who made HP last quarter’s no. 2 tablet maker – can now look forward to the community messing around with the source code, fixing bugs and implementing new features.
But, hey, who knows. If everything goes well, WebOS would become much more open than Android. It’d be developed by the community, and not a single company. And, the WebOS division would be able to operate like a start-up, hopefully spurring even more innovation. It could be used in niche products that require custom operating systems, and whatnot. With its well-designed UI, it definitely has potential, and the open-sourcing could prove to be a new beginning. Even though that’s unlikely.
At least it’s not dead. Yet.
(A personal note: Of course I’d also like to see WebOS ported for my HTC HD2. That’d be amazing.)