Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Why HP should open source WebOS

As you might remember, I am a big fan of Palm. One thing you might not know, is that I am a big fan of HP as well. I spent time at the HP Labs as an invited scientist in 1995, and the HP Way always stuck with me.

Therefore, you might understand my happiness when I heard about HP buying Palm. I was quite worried about the future of Palm, and now they have someone with deep pockets behind them. They are not going away. They are staying and have a great chance to succeed.

Where is the big value of Palm?

Easy, it is WebOS, with its tight cloud service connection (Synergy and the continuous sync in the background). The best implementation of an OS I have seen around. Better than iPhone and Android, in my personal opinion. Just a tad slow on the Palm hardware, but that is easy to fix for HP.

My suggestion on WebOS is easy: open source it. Fast. If there is one thing I believe Palm did wrong, it was following the Apple model. Keep it closed and you die, unless you are ahead of everyone and big. Palm is none of the above.

Look at what is happening in the browser world. Internet Explorer market share is collapsing. Firefox and Chrome are catching up extremely fast. Give it a couple of years, and the open source browser will dominate.

On mobile, it is even more important. Developers count. They are everything for a platform. As you cannot sell a mobile phone without cloud services today, you cannot be successful without developers. What drives sales are applications. And they are built by developers. And developers pick platforms that are open source (unless you are ahead of everyone and big, such as Apple).

Symbian got it. Nokia got it. Intel got it. Google got it.

Apple does not have to do it (unless someone catches up badly with them, but I do not see it happening that soon), Microsoft should but they do not get it (guys, believe me, the operating system market does not tolerate a closed OS you have to pay for, you will have to get it one day). HP must.

If they get it, WebOS might become a force in the market. I expect HP to put it on netbooks, and a lot of connected devices. Make it open source and you get a winner. Keep it closed and you have yet another missed opportunity.