What mobile devices might support Open webOS? Think Nexus, think N9 | webOS Nation
 
 

What mobile devices might support Open webOS? Think Nexus, think N9 42

by Derek Kessler Tue, 31 Jul 2012 9:47 pm EDT

What mobile devices might support Open webOS? Think Nexus, think N9

So with today's news that HP's not going to make Open webOS compatible with existing webOS devices, what devices can we expect to get support? As they said in their announcement today, HP is "aiming for support on future hardware platforms" with support for the Linux Standard Kernel 3.3 and a full complement of compatible open source drivers. The key word in their statement is 'future', and right now the answer as to which devices currently fit that mold is… none.

The Linux Standard Kernel 3.3 is relatively new and no devices have yet been certified for 3.3. Right now, all Android OEMs are on version 3.1, despite the fact that version 3.3 has support for ARM processors going all the way back to Cortex-A8 (the original Palm Pre ran one of TI's ARM Cortex-A8 processors). Future devices will no doubt eventually have the kernel module (a closed-source bit for the processor) to support 3.3, but right now there aren't any that do and we don't know when that will happen.

Historically speaking, Texas Instruments and Intel have been very good about providing documentation, adopting the latest Linux standards, and being general good supporters of the open source community. Qualcomm, Samsung, Nvidia, and the rest… not so much. Narrowing down our options [note: this is not a suggested purchases list, we don't recommend you buy a device on the chance that it might someday run Open webOS] to the most likely candidates among currently available devices are two: the Android-powered Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Nokia N9 running Meego.

Why these two? They're both fully open source devices (well, mostly - some parts like graphics drivers aren't open source, but they do at least incorporate TI's PowerVR GPUs) and they both have TI processors likely to get support for LSK 3.3. The N9 has the same single-core OMAP3630 as was found in the Palm Pre 2, though Nokia's is clocked at 1.2GHz, and the Galaxy Nexus has a newer dual-core 1.2GHz OMAP4460. Both are also slick pieces of hardware with attractive industrial design and none of the capacitive or physical buttons that still mar the face of most Android handsets (even though Android 4.0 supports on-screen buttons; Meego was designed with them). When it comes to the Galaxy Nexus, we do have to be specific that the unlocked GSM version is the one we're referring to here, as the Sprint and Verizon versions aren't fully open source thanks to carrier meddling.

What mobile devices might support Open webOS? Think Nexus, think N9

As for tablets that'll support Open webOS, right now there aren't any that fit the bill of a TI processor and open source drivers. There are a number with TI chips (notably the BlackBerry PlayBook, Amazon Kindle Fire, Motorola Xyboard, and a slew of Archos tablets), but none of them are open source. The two open source Android tablets - the Motorola Xoom and the Google Nexus 7 (built by Asus) - both have Nvidia's Tegra chips at their core. But future tablets might fit the bill a bit better, such as the Windows RT-powered Toshiba tablet shown off by TI at CES earlier this year. That tablet was running an OMAP4470 chip, which has two cores running at up to 1.8GHz - a snappy tablet indeed - though how much open source support it will have, let alone how much it will cost and when it will be released, are up in the air.

These are just for close-to-out-of-the-box support for Open webOS. Since the operating system is going to be fully open source, we have little doubt the webOS homebrew community will tackle it with gusto and get it running on even more hardware. Hacking devices to support the Linux Standard Kernel 3.3 might not be too difficult, opening up the range of devices with possible support. And seeing the dozens of devices, including the closed-source Qualcomm-powered HP TouchPad, the CyanogenMod project has managed to get their open source version of Android running on, we wouldn't be surprised to see the same happen with webOS.

Of course, there's always the option of future hardware. Eventually more chip makers and device manufacturers will adopt the updated Linux kernel. Google will of course put out more Nexus devices, and they might happen to have open source-friendly TI processors. A slew of tablets running Android and Windows RT will hit with varying degrees of open source compatibility, and who knows, maybe even HP will make compatible hardware. They might even make hardware that ships with Open webOS already installed, though like the possibilities for the devices above, we wouldn't put all of our cards on that thought.

42 Comments

I mean, lets not take HP's words for this. As you say, Homebrew community can and surely will do marvels with open webOS. If HP thinks it can't be done, Homebrew community will prove wrong.
The only thing missing here my physical keyboard!

I have confidence in the homebrew community, but there are some things that just cannot be done without massive dedication of time and energy, and reverse engineering code for drivers definitely ranks up there. Just look at Nouveau for Linux and tell me that those drivers came around overnight.

I'm not pleased with the way this result has occurred, but I can't say I didn't see it coming. HP licensed a number of pieces of tech in order to make webOS work, and those licenses don't permit them to disclose source code. At least we have hope for newer devices. I, for one, am waiting patiently (with my Frankpre 2 at my side) for a phone with a good battery life that I will be able to dual boot Android and webOS.

Unlocked GSM Samsung Galaxy Nexus you say? :)
 
-- Sent from my unlocked GSM Samsung Galaxy Nexus

I'd love to see open webOS on the galaxy nexus. Its a nice phone. Also glad I didn't replace my Pre 3 with another one.

My lumia 900 is the same style as the n9 but Qualcomm chip. Hopefully there will be a port for it too.

Everyone can talk about CPU/GPUs and Linux Standard Kernel 3.3, but let's get to the real problem here: The Bootloader. It's the elephant in the room nobody really likes to talk about with Open webOS because that's where things can get pretty scary for its future as a port-able mobile OS.
 
One problem with trying to port Open webOS to a Microsoft Windows 7/8/RT device: Locked bootloaders mandated by Microsoft. And as long as the bootloader is locked, you can't replace the OS at all, much less dual-boot. Derek even mentioned this in a previous article some time back when the big deal in the forums was about porting webOS to Windows Phone 7/Windows 8 tablets.
 
Unlocking a locked bootloader is probably the most difficult and more often than not insurmountable part of trying to get at the device. Many Android devices don't have a locked bootloader, which makes it the most likely vector OS for porting currently.
 
But in the Android world, if you do have a locked bootloader (as many manufacturers do, sometimes inconsistently), once you unlock it, you lose 4G immediately...and it doesn't come back 90% of the time. Just look how many CyanogenMod and MIUI ports don't have 4G capability and you'll see why CM, while it's a great effort, isn't necessarily a practical solution for those that are paying for 4G service on their smartphones.
 
And, lest we forget when it comes to CM9's Touchpad port, there are still hardware components of the Touchpad that don't work at all with it. It's a wildly mixed bag when you really begin to look into CM's success on non-Android devices...and in some cases even other Android devices.
 
It's not going to be easy. Realistically a couple of devices will come along and Open webOS will make it onto them. Finding exactly which of those devices are suitable is going to be an interesting and lengthy task.

I don't get the point of all this. Why is a major manufacturer wasting time and money making a watered-down version of their software, only to give it away to hobbyists so they can half-ass wedge it onto some other company's product? What's in it for them? And why would you buy the latest and greatest phone or tablet, only to cripple it by installing open-source software with no apps? What's the ultimate goal here?

to sell or license it.

Open source wouldn't cripple it. It would allow them to license it without paying anyone else fees.

now the no apps thing? Well that's been an issue with webos from day one and it's still the big issue.

"I don't get the point of all this."
because it is all politics, and there's no point in it, so your observation is correct, it is all pointless

"Why is a major manufacturer wasting time and money making a watered-down version of their software, only to give it away to hobbyists so they can half-ass wedge it onto some other company's product? What's in it for them?"
There's just one simple thing in it for them: Public Relations Damage Control, i.e. trying to wriggle their way out of the HUGE blunders made by previous management, under the Leo "Idiotheker" command - and doing so, paying as little as only possible. Of which, short/mid/ and long-term webOS chances of survival, are least of their worries.

"And why would you buy the latest and greatest phone or tablet, only to cripple it by installing open-source software with no apps? What's the ultimate goal here?"
indeed, why would anyone do such a thing - unless just for the kicks of it (i.e., tinkerer/geek type of "I did it, because I have nothing else more important or funny to do)?

Reality checks, plain and simple.

And please, spare me that "to license it to someone else" stuff..

I love webOS, but I agree with this. App support for webOS is and always has been pathetic compared to the big players. Unless some big companies decide to adopt it and promote it, it's basically DOA. I hardly see the value in putting so much effort in getting it to work on another device when few new apps will be available.

Great . Now hopefully I'll be able to remove Android 4.1 from my Kindle Fire and replace it with Open webOS

Can I have it for my Samsung S8500 Wave?

Are there ANY recent phones (apart from BlackBerry) that have a decent portrait physical keyboard like our Pres (does not have to be a slider)?

Motorola Admiral is not bad.

There's the Droid Pro, but it's 40% slower than the Pre3.

And has a much poorer screen. The simple fact is that the Pre 3 is currently the highest spec phone you can get with a physical keyboard. I can type on it much faster than I can on my BB 9810 or any touchscreen keyboard, I can work it one handed (the other hand is for holding the dog's lead, not what you thought) and it looks like it will need to keep going until BB finally comes up with a BB10 Torch replacement in 2014, if they last that long.

no go BB10

Oh yeah, go blackberry 10 and experience the failing of a good OS again. I'm tired of sticking to good OSs from failing Companys.

I hate myself for saying it. But the most 'WebOS-Like' user experience is not BB10. It is indeed the IPhone with Jailbreak and 'Card Switcher' on it. It seems bringing kind of real multitasking on that Apple crap.

Here's a youtube vid:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zzdi1lO7V_w

Me, I'll stick to my Pre3 until it falls apart. And than I'll look for alternatives.

Actually if you want the most "webOS-like" experience, especially 'off-the-shelf' then I would direct you to an Android phone running ICS.

I tried it out, but it's far away from the same feeling. Seen the video? WebOS or Android users are dreaming of such funktions. besides Android does not have multitasking (so no live updates on the task manager).

But as I mentioned, I'm happy with my Pre3 for now (of course with a million patches on it ;)

Sticking to my Pre3 and Touchpad , hopefully the community will get Open WebOS working on native hardware.
Still not ruling out HP releasing new WebOS tablet with Open WebOS in september...stranger things have happened and dont forget that Mistry tablet in the HP advert.
Hp may also do a huge u turn given that they face a big backlash.
None or some of this may happen but there im pretty optimistic :)

"Still not ruling out HP releasing new WebOS tablet with Open WebOS in september"

That is four weeks away, there is no chance of them releasing a new tablet - absolutely none.

Not dead, WebOS is a frosty glass of milk, poured for someone that is out of town for two months. HP is more useless than WebOS.

" And seeing the dozens of devices, including the closed-source Qualcomm-powered HP TouchPad, the CyanogenMod project has managed to get their open source version of Android running on, we wouldn't be surprised to see the same happen with webOS."

Well I for one would be mighty surprised - given the sheer size of Android vs. webOS community & resulting muscle power behind their respective developers communities, it is quite unlikely, that Open webOS will gain any significant traction. webOS Homebrewers (respect!) are only so many, and they have lives, you know, and that whole programming thing is quite time consuming and demanding.

In my opinion, one absolutely crucial requirement for it having any chance of flying (at least some life line), would be to provide compatibility layer, that would allow running Android apps on Open webOS (something like Alien Dalvik project, for webOS). If it is not implemented, folks might as well don't bother at all with Open webOS, IMHO. Why wold anyone use a "feature phone", or a newly coined term, a "feature tablet", running some exotic OS, that does not have any mainstream recognition (and mark my words, HP will shut down App Catalog servers as quickly as they possibly can, without having their pants sued off them), being sentenced to the functionality, that you get with OS itself, and handful of "swan's song" applications.

I'm confused by all of this. HP is going to have an Open source WebOS that won't run on anything? Jeepers, that will be fun!

I thought at least it would go on the Pre3 and MY Veer so they would have a small base to gain some momentum. Decisions like this are why their stock is at a 52 week low. Seriously, WTF are they thinking?

And as for these other devices that may come along, they will not have the gesture area so gestures is dead? Throw a guy a bone here, would ya? All this seems aimed more at tablets than phones. I'm a phone customer.

"And as for these other devices that may come along, they will not have the gesture area so gestures is dead? Throw a guy a bone here, would ya? All this seems aimed more at tablets than phones. I'm a phone customer."

My thoughts exactly

HP doesn't want to be in the phone business anymore. They made this pretty clear when they canceled the Pre3 and said that they weren't going to be in the phone business.

At that same time, Leo also announced the same for the Tablet and PC's. Look where that got them... an all time low stock price of $17.66 simply because of how they handled WebOS, so take THAT Leo! OK, maybe there are other mitigating factors, but it's really all about their mismanagement of WebOS.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Supposing someone gets this into shape so that it can be installed by the purchaser on some devices, and runs 100% perfectly...

How many people are going to do this? I'm guessing fewer than the number of people who have Pre3's. It's only going to be the hardcore enthusiasts.

How much app support is there going to be for it? Based on that size of market? I think the answer is obvious.

If they don't upgrade existing WebOS users and don't release new hardware with WebOS preinstalled, it's dead. Better would be to do both....

That's why this announcement needed to come with information of a new hardware launch, but it didn't, so HP failed again.

So where is webOS 3.0.6

Have seen the new Sony Xperia Tablet? That with WebOS? Yammi! But to be serious. I think there is an alternative plan from HP. They won't bring WinRT Tablets, but I'm convinced they built some and refused the idea afterwards because of the surface tablets. So what should HP do with the already built hardware? But that's just guessing.

I think it's the right way what they are doing. Like Microsoft and Win8 for Phones they're concentrating on the future. I'm very satisfied with the WebOS Version on my Pre3. It's not a toy for me. I work with it. And it does its assistance very well as it is. What do I miss? Nothing! Sure I'm curious about the future, but I don't think there will be a manufacturer, that's brave enough to build keyboards and gesture areas or inductive charging (and I mean sexy inductive charging like touchstone. Have you seen the ugly dock for the Galaxy SIII?).

And just for the record: I HATE APPLE!

Wrong button clicked.

and I wonder... why would I (or anybody) buy a state-of-the-art phone/tablet to install a OS that nobody, or almost nobody, is actually developing apps? it is already frustrating to see a lot of great apps available in iOS and Andoid and not in my Pre 3 or Touchpad, why would I fall again to the same trap
seems counterintuitive to me

I don't think that that will be a problem. As far as I know, HP is working with openmobile to get Android apps working on Open WebOS.

And seriously, I bought my grandma a sony tablet s with now Android 4 on it. The app store... ehm... I mean play store is a digital garbage dump. In my opinion the amount of apps is absolutely nonrelevant. And man... Android is shit, too.

I could say the same about the hp app catalog. The difference on android is you can actually find many good apps and official apps. The HP catalog is filled with pop corn apps made by college students looking to make a quick buck.

I fail to see why anyone would buy a device to put DeadOS on it. I don't even think you will ever see it ported to a device. How many people are involved in WebOS internals? I am sure it is a handful and there is no way they can still motivated at this point.

If there is a critical, but closed source piece of code on an Android phone, and you know what it does, and can see in the open source code all the calls to it, can you not just re-use it in place with your own open source code?

As more and more apps get re-written into HTML5, then they would automatically become available into the ecosystem of any OS that supports HTML5 in the browser. (Assuming HTML5 is up to the task.) Why wouldn't a developer try it and automagically have an app that runs on iOS, OpenWebOS, Android, BB, Windows 8, and any regular computer? The app count debate will soon be bogus.

The problem is the links to the OS functions like gps, accelerometers and so on. Until there is an equivalent of POSIX for all these onboard devices, generic HTML5 won't happen.

But in general I agree: "app count" is completely bogus. Things like readers don't need special device access. I imagine it will all follow the PC world where the early explosion of little programs was followed by massive rationalisation. I need about 20 third party programs for my PC, and that includes SQL/Java development.

While on a technical level, the N9 is a good idea I'm not sure it is in terms of supply/cost - the meego crowd are as fanatical as the WebOS crowd, so the second hand price of the devices is remaining stable - how many people are going to spunk £250-£300 on a phone on the off-chance that one day, someone might be able to get a working version of WebOS on it?

Surely a much cheaper more common option can be identified?

got my Mom a Galaxy S III because she needs a large screen
it is an amazing phone, though the antithesis of my Veer, which I prefer for its keyboard & smaller size
ICS comes with the Galaxy & I have been playing with it over the past 2 weeks a great deal
it does not feel much like WebOs at all which seems much more efficient & intuitive
HP needs to get back in the cellphone business
they have a huge advantage with WebOs that they are squandering
sad

You're free to "Think Nexus, think N9" as much as you like. Neither runs the Linux 3.3 kernel, and both are based on hardware that requires non-opensource drivers.