Last year there was a wave of speculation about who might acquire Hewlett-Packard's webOS platform, when the PC maker closed down the former Palm unit and put the product into open source. However, talk of webOS finding its way to Amazon or Samsung proved to be just that, and recently the system has been almost forgotten. But now elements of the well regarded platform may find a second life at Google, which is reportedly hiring a core webOS team.
According to reports in The Verge blog, Google has hired the HP team which created Enyo, the HTML5 application framework for webOS. Although that hardly changed the world when it appeared on the ill-fated TouchPad tablet, the commercial failure of webOS belied its advanced technology. It was an early and well respected example of the new wave of slimline, Linux-based, heavily cloud-oriented operating systems, which rely on web standards and streamed content more than on local processing and downloads.
With the mobile world heading firmly in that direction, Google may well want to improve the HTML5 credentials of Android or its broader web platforms, or enhance its own cloud system, Chrome OS. Some analysts believe it will eventually merge its two OSs and harness newly acquired Motorola technologies such as LapDock, to drive the upcoming wave of new device form factors for the cloud. The Enyo team could be a valuable element in that strategy as Google becomes more interested in shaping an integrated hardware/software experience.
When Meg Whitman replaced Leo Apotheker as CEO at HP last year, his ambitious plan to turn webOS into a cloud system embedded in every form of gadget had already been pulled back, and reported attempts to license the OS had also come to nothing. The TouchPad and the former Palm smartphones were making little impact and so Whitman refocused on mobile PCs and released the webOS code, the highlight of HP's $1.2bn acquisition of Palm, to developers. She pledged to evaluate the relevance and appeal of webOS in the mobile developer community and continue to support it within open source, but little has been heard of that since and now it seems the remaining teams are leaving.