Gram working with LG on an Open webOS TV 128
Ever since HP announced they would be open sourcing webOS, we've been wondering "to what end?" Going open source can only amount to so much with only the community pushing forward the development. Earlier this month we told you about Open webOS Professional Edition, a version of webOS offered by Gram to OEMs that reintegrates all of the services that made webOS, you know, webOS. But who's going to use it?
Turns out the first company to use Open webOS in a commercial setting isn't one you might expect, and they aren't planning to do it in a form factor that's rather new for webOS. It's LG, and they're making a webOS television.
The project of porting Open webOS to the big screen has been underway for several months, well before the revelation that HP would be spinning the webOS GBU off as an independent Gram. Headed by HP's Leonid Zolotarev, with Keith Weng leading program management and former Motorola project manager Thom Davis in charge of engineering, the Open webOS porting project has aimed to bring the user interface of webOS to the television, replacing LG's aging NetCast smart TV platform. NetCast was introduced back at CES 2009 (the same CES where the original Palm Pre was introduced and won Best of Show). While webOS has been overhauled multiple times since then, NetCast hasn't evolved much, though it's had a few new apps added over the years.
The process requires more than just a port, though - for Open webOS to be taken seriously as a smart TV platform, it needs a number of apps that webOS has simply never had. These apps are being built in Enyo, and are said to include services like Netflix (we hear you - finally!). NetCast also offers Yahoo widgets, CinemaNow, Pandora, Vudu, and YouTube; again, apps that would need to be built fresh in Enyo as there's simply not a modern webOS equivalent (excepting Pandora, though a commercially-available TV would need an official app).
There's one hitch the Gram team working on the TV project is working hard to overcome, and that's boot speed. If you've used webOS, you know it can take a long while to boot, even with a beefy processor behind it. One solution being explored by the team is to actually leave the computer half of the TV running and merely switch off the screen off when the TV is turned 'off'.
Manufacturers like LG have been known to pursue multiple approaches to a project like this, and Open webOS was one of three separate avenues they had been considering. That said, HP signed an agreement with LG in June around this project. LG's also had multiple engineers sent to Sunnyvale to work with HP's webOS engineers. They've also sent multiple LG L9 motherboards (L9 being LG's dual core chipset made specifically for their smart televisions).
As for why LG is opting to pursue Open webOS for the smart television lineup, we've been told that they aren't comfortable with Google's terms for using Google TV (let alone the adoption rate of Google TV) and fear what Apple could accomplish if they were more aggressive in the TV market. So while Open webOS may not be LG's property, it's something that they can do with as they please, and with the willing assistance of HP/Gram.
LG and Gram are hoping to show off the Open webOS LG TV at CES 2013, though when it might hit shelves and how much corporate and retail support will be behind it (assuming it actually launches) is another question entirely.