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Open webOS won’t be coming to existing devices: What does this mean for the HP TouchPad?

HP look set to stomp on the hearts of the webOS faithful yet again as the latest developments surrounding the new Open webOS platform, states that older hardware won’t be able to support the new iterations of the platform.

HP TouchPad and HP Pre 3 webOS

What is Open webOS?

Many were excited by the prospect of webOS-based products from HP, which were the culmination of the company’s procurement of Palm’s latest mobile OS and hardware.

The lineup that eventually arrived in stores proved too much of an undertaking for the company and so with the final release of the HP TouchPad and the Pre 3, they pulled the plug on the platform. webOS wasn’t down and out just yet however as Open webOS has emerged to take its place.

The new incarnation of webOS which was unveiled in the first quarter of 2012 has been designed to pick up where the old version left off. The ‘Open’ part of the name is because this iteration is just that; an open source project where the community are given access to the work HP started. There’s even a ‘Community Edition’ designed to give developers access to new tools with which they can use to improve HP’s existing, now discontinued hardware.

Why has HP done this?

As Microsoft recently announced with Windows Phone 8 over Windows Phone 7/7.5, older iterations of webOS won’t be able to play ball with the first releases of Open webOS and onwards. SlashGear quoted from the Open webOS blog that, “for Open webOS we are aiming for support on future hardware platforms where SoC’s support Linux 3.3+ kernel and where open source replacements for proprietary components are integrated. Existing devices cannot be supported because of those many proprietary components, including graphics, networking and lack of drivers for a modern kernel (but of course, there is the Community Edition for those interested in improving the TouchPad).

What the project is stating is that the foundations of Open webOS, won’t be compatible with existing hardware already in the hands of consumers running the current iteration of the OS.

Which products will it affect?

Effectively every current webOS device, such as the TouchPad and any variant of the Pre or Pixi isn’t set to make the grade, only new hardware will be able to bring Open webOs into the hands of users.

What does it mean for the future of the platform?

Having said that, the existence of the Community Edition of Open webOS does mean that, provided HP can release the necessary drivers or variants that can be openly distributed, developers may be able to knead them into place on devices like the existing HP TouchPad.

At this stage however, we will have to wait for HP’s decision; a decision that could take the sting out of the current situation amongst webOS fans, or just worsen their relationship, depending on how it develops. 

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