WebOS still has a pulse! The mobile OS seemingly doomed to a cold eternity in a digital graveyard has been granted an open source reprieve. Great! Only question is, what comes next?
Obviously webOS is a platform built for smartphones and tablets, but HP making it open source means people can find some weird uses for the little OS that could. How would webOS be best put to use? We already know we'll probably see another tablet from HP. They've conceded that much and we like that. A lot. But we've got some other ideas for how webOS could be used.
HTC makes fantastic, well-built hardware, and is generally open to building devices for any viable platform. WebOS has always run on hardware that could have been better. HTC is also caught between Google and Microsoft in the patent wars, which has left them resorting to paying licensing fees to the latter in order to continue making Android phones. Unlike Samsung, they don't pull revenue from other areas of tech, so they have no choice but to oblige. With HP already stating that they have no plans to make any more phones, this could be HTC's chance to step in and produce something really bad-arse.
We know Amazon has pledged allegiance to Android (for the time being). But one can't help but feel like Amazon could build a better user experience on top of webOS. The lack of apps is certainly an issue, but between HP's pledge of support and someone like Amazon beating the webOS drum, it seems logical that they could get some heavyweight devs to contribute, no?
When HP first bought webOS, they hinted that webOS would make its way onto laptops as a sort of lightweight, battery-friendly client for checking email and browsing the web. Microsoft is already heading in this direction with their Metro UI, so it doesn't seem outside the realm of possibility that HP -- or another laptop maker -- would bake webOS into future offerings. Worst case scenario, this could make an excellent experimental UI for that netbook or obsolete laptop you gave up on a couple of years ago.
We're not really all that excited by this, but it it's inevitable. HP has a preternatural fixation with printer innovations and infusing their hardware with webOS is something they have yet to shut up about. Do you need multitasking and notifications to print coupons? No. Do printers need a mobile OS to prevent killer viruses? Probably not. But whatever, if this somehow makes HP money and keeps them interested in webOS, I'm for it.
I'd love to see someone build a dedicated gaming device powered by webOS, which is extremely compatible with HTML5 standards, including WebGL. Touchscreen gaming is great, but there's no denying the luxury of having buttons. A webOS gaming device could provide a safe haven for indie developers interested in serving up fun and awesome games, and who don't want to deal with the politics of Apple, Sony and Nintendo, or worry about whether future Android updates will make their lives hell.
Android is making a push to be be the official software of the smarthome. But seeing as anyone who makes an Android-powered product has to pay out licensing fees to the likes of Microsoft, I can't see taking off. What if webOS became the official smart home standard? Washing machines that notify you when a load is clean. Wi-Fi-controlled lights. Power usage monitoring. Wireless locks. The possibilities are endless -- and, for devs, free.
Yes, smartphones are taking over the territory once claimed by point and shoots, but what if a camera maker imbued their dedicated shooter with a mobile OS? Not only can you wirelessly shoot photos to your computer or Twitter or Facebook (which some cameras can do now), but you'd get an intuitive touch interface and the potential to have apps which can add filters and functionality to powerful hardware.
WebOS could hypothetically be used to power an IPTV box, and that would make sense, since streaming video in the living room is the absolute future (and in a lot of homes, present) as far as I'm concerned. But aside from total freedom, is webOS really the best avenue for such a solution? Considering an IPTV build would have to be skinned, and apps selection is beyond paltry, webOS provides no advantage over building something with straight Linux.
Or webOS becomes Unix, with no support and no broad interest, languishing in platform purgatory. Hopefully not! But hey -- it might actually beat printer hell.