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Why HP chose not to support the TouchPad with Open webOS: priorities 46

by Derek Kessler Fri, 03 Aug 2012 8:52 pm EDT

Why HP chose not to support the TouchPad with Open webOS: priorities

With one paragraph posted three days ago, HP's Open webOS team kicked off a storm in the webOS Nation community: Open webOS would not support any existing webOS devices, including the HP TouchPad. The statement included the entirely factual point that the drivers for the TouchPad are not open source, nor does the processor support the Linux Standard Kernel 3.3 that's at the heart of Open webOS. Understandably, that brief explanation was not enough for the webOS Nation community, who had been operating under the assumption that since Open webOS is shapeing up to essentially be a moderately improved and open source version of the webOS currently available on the TouchPad, that their favorite webOS tablet would be getting an update to Open webOS. We'd been operating under that assumption as well.

Today, after talking about Enyo with HP's Enda McGrath (full disclosure: HP is paying for my flight and hotel for this trip), I asked the question on the mind of just about every member of the webOS Nation community: "Why, HP, why?" The simple answer is that while the Open webOS team wanted to support the TouchPad with an updated version of the OS, they had to make the hard decision not to dedicate the large number of employees and considerable amount of time it would have taken to accomplish the task. Apparently predicting (correctly) that I was about to ask if the departures and layoffs that have hit the webOS group have affected the progress and priorities list, Enda added that they're constantly hiring new people to work on webOS.

To put things into perspective, Enda pointed out that to open source LunaSysMgr took tens of thousands of man-hours, with developers going over hundreds of thousands of lines of code to remove and replace proprietary code from dozens of outside sources. And it's not as simple as pulling out one module and putting in another one, often times the new open source code would require rewriting aspects of the existing open source-safe code so it would work. Besides the open sourcing work, improvements were made like integrating the QtWebKit engine and Node.js, all of which took even more man-hours.

While time is obviously a restraining factor in all things, the straw that broke the update camel's back was the choice to use the Linux Standard Kernel 3.3, which the Qualcomm APQ8060 processor in the TouchPad simply does not support, and it's unknown if it will ever be certified for the kernel. While it's technically possible to make a build of Open webOS that will run on the TouchPad, when push came to shove, making that happen was dropped off of the list of top priorities in Sunnyvale.

That decision was one of the driving forces behind the release of the webOS Community Edition, which open sourced vital components of webOS 3.0.5, including that version's LunaSysMgr. HP worked with famed webOS homebrew group WebOS Internals to facilitate the release of the Community Edition and the creation of the WebOS Ports sub-group coordinate open source development off of the released code. While you might think it stopped there, McGrath says that HP is continuing to partner with WebOS Ports on the Community Edition and offering support, guidance, and even contributing to the open source code where they can. McGrath said that HP is "luck to have great collaborators and friends like Tom King and Rod Whitby" of WebOS Ports and WebOS Internals, not just to work with the company but also to be leading the webOS homebrew community.

The question of where to dedicate man-hours is one that plagues every company, even those with seemingly endless supplies of personnel and bottomless barrels of cash like Apple, Google, and Microsoft. It's an even more pressing question for organization's like HP's webOS group, who while having the support of the higher-ups at HP simply have far fewer people to work with than their bigger competitors. At its biggest, Palm counted an employee base of around one thousand, but today after layoffs and departures, the headcount at the webOS group hovers around two hundred. That includes software engineers, user interface designers, the developer relations team, and many other groups.

So when it got down to brass tacks, looking at the work left to do on Enyo and Open webOS, the decision was made by the webOS leadership team that though they didn't like it, they'd have to cut supporting the TouchPad out of their plans for Open webOS. For what it's worth, HP never proclaimed that Open webOS would be released for the TouchPad, though just about all of us in the community did come to the foregone conclusion that they would. You'd think we'd learn not to make those assumptions.

As mentioned earlier, McGrath to point out that while it'd take a lot of work on HP's part, it's not technically impossible to make Open webOS run on the TouchPad. In fact, he fully expects that the webOS homebrew community will step up to make it happen, just as the Android community has done. I didn't get the impression that the decision was made knowing and hoping that the homebrew community would do it for them - HP wanted to do this, but simply didn't have the time.

46 Comments

Gee, why does this feel like a Whitehouse press conference?

You mean the type where I'm left wondering whether Jay was lying or was lied to? Nah, this actually sounds pretty believable to me - they can't or don't want to spend the money it would take to support the TP with Open webOS.

So is HP trying to tell us that Cyanogenmod have more resources than HP?

No, they are saying that it doesn't help us in anyway to support TP so if people are interested in making it work then volunteer to make it happen.

I'm actually taking a more novel approach to this --

It sounds to me like we have what we'd probably need to make Open webOS work on a TouchPad, in the form of what is in CE.

Since HP has demonstrated that they will abandon, rather than support, the products that I purchase from them (the TouchPad is not the only one), I will be spending my money elsewhere.

On the plus side, we're getting the most webOS news we have in a year. Even if it's disappointing, at least it's something.

+1

HP is just reminding us that they think anyone dumb enough to buy WebOS based hardware is not worth supporting.

Just a note to the editors:

"Enda added that their constantly hiring new people to work on webOS."

That's just one of several errors in the story.

While I certainly did and still do hope that Open webOS would be made to run on current hardware, just as certainly, I knew there was a strong chance that it wouldn't. After all, dumping past generation hardware to liberate future generation software has been invoked numerous times in tech's past and our own specifically.

"...but today after layoffs and departures, the headcount at the webOS group hovers around two hundred. That includes software engineers, user interface designers, the developer relations team, and many other groups."

Wonder just how many of those people are "managers"... I'd be crazy interested in seeing an internal org chart.

Thanks for sharing this enlightening story, Derek.

While I can appreciate that HP "wanted" to port OpenwebOS to the Touchpad, but they just "didn't have the resources"...that just doesn't ring true. The reality is that HP chose not to spend more on webOS...and that supporting the Touchpad is not a priority. Simply put. HP has the resources to do all kinds of things and its nice to hear that they are "constantly hiring new people all the time for webOS" but lets keep in mind that they played a very big hand in putting webOS in that understaffed position in the first place. Just saying...

The more important question to me is...where is HP going with OpenwebOS? Once it is released are they going to support it? Are they going to (help) develop it further? And perhaps most importantly, is HP going to promote and/or develop hardware for it? I think these are the real questions that WebOS fans want to know.

We know where WebOS has been, where is it going?!

Then how bout a community edition for the Pre3?

That's cool.

OK I get it. So but without any hardware for OpenWebOS to run on, what's the point? Did they give any indication that the fruits of their efforts will ever actually run on anything?

Derek, any chance you could clarify what their plans for phones?

I am getting the feeling the main focus of OpenWebOS is for Tablets.

While I fully agree that some of the multi tasking capabilities of WebOS shines so much better in a Tablet and given lack of a real #2 tablet in the market they have a very good chance in succeeding in that, I would still like to see OpenWebOS making it to phones. So any indication of any such plans would be very nice to hear !

Here Here.

I use my Pre 3 about 20 times more often than my Touchpad.

The Pre3 fits in my pocket, a Touchpad does not! Meaning when I am out and about it's the Pre3 I use.

In ten or twenty years, I reckon tablets will go the way of the PC, laptop and netbook. We will see smartphones with sophisticated beam projectors, to project images too small for a smartphone screen.

The future is the smartphone and this is where I'd like the focus for Open WebOS to be, rather than tablets.

Anybody else share this view?

I do, tablets are an Apple-created fashion thing. Smartphones are the future, our communication tool and our assistent in everyday life. I think tablets in the future will be the small thing on the couch to control everything at home (remote control of the pc) or quickly look sth. up in the internet. I think the main pc will still be a desktop, hidden somewhere, totally connected ( e.g. to different screens in different rooms and the music system) and controlling everything (until an AI comes up an destroys humanity ;)

And for the record: The Pre³ is one hell of a phone!

Thanks Derek. You're always doing great Work! I'm sure you got more Information you want to publish in several articles. Waiting and looking forward to read more.

Did Google change the LSK enough that it won't use LSK drivers? That wouldn't have been smart. There are also ports of Android that work on TouchPad. Doesn't that mean that there are drivers for LSK that will work with OpenWebOS on TouchPad?

Google didn't change anythg. Google doesn't maintain the linux kernel, as any other contributor they just add their contribution. As far as I know none of the hardware out there use the 3.3 kernel. Some of the latest Andro hardware may support it, but the Touchpad have been designed to run a custom version of the kernel, with closed source drivers

warning--this is all speculation based on what I see as we are only getting the minimum of information but this is now how I see the picture.

After reading Derek's story, I'm assuming HP is spending the minimum to turn webOS into open source --maybe figuring those monies will be offset currently by patent licensing fees and tax deductions. They will not be spending much money if at all beyond this to help open WebOS succeed. They will not be spending money (ie time of their team) , for e.g.., to make sure the current webOS base continues to be able to use and evangelize open WebOS on current devices, whether touchpads, Pre3s, Veers, or $50 Pres.

In fact, Its very possible their current budget assumes zero adoption by third parties which is the reason why little money will be spent in this area to evangelize. Because they wrote webOS investment down, if they do get any adoption and webOS survives, it is a hail mary plus for them in the future so they therefore can afford to carry this with minimal risk for a few years.

--I am not assuming HP will be spending much money, if at all, to get third parties to adopt the system. They will mostly put the software out there and see if anyone picks it up. If no one picks it up on their own, HP may drop it (although Meg talked about 4-5 year plan so it may take another year or so for HP to drop it).

--I am not sure also HP will be adapting it currently to any mobile devices running 3.3. I am not even sure if there any mobile devices that have the required degree of open-ness for Linux 3.3 and that may be HP's excuse right there. So I'm half expecting it to run in an emulator only or maybe some desk PC edition come Sept. If any third parties pick it up, I am assuming HP thinks the third parties will expend the effort to make it fit with mobile.

--webos internals and the community will do their best to port forward into new devices but they will be hampered by lack of open drivers and perhaps also by time. Likewise they will do their best to back port but they are hampered also by lack of open drivers.

--It is rumored that Qt will be sold by Nokia very shortly who will then no longer maintain it. If it is sold by Nokia, then open WebOS which depends on Qt, may run into problems depending on who buys it and what they do with it. It has been suggested that HP buy QT which will then give them the underpinnings for an alternate robust operating system. I am not assuming HP will buy QT as I believe HP wants to get into services and out of hardware completely and is hoping to ramp up services faster than the hardware decline (which is why the Autonomy revenue decline after they bought it was such a big problem).

--In contrast to openWebOS, HP has drawn up a business plan and budget where they do think they can get revenues from Enyo licensing fees. Therefore they are prepared to spend to keep Enyo up to date and to fly staff to various conferences to evangelize. They have separated enyo from openWebOS into a different business line. Note openWebOS does not even have the current version of Enyo. Thus if openWebOS goes down, it will not affect Enyo.

Derek, if I am wrong about any of this, it would be great if you could get your sources to comment and fill in the missing details.

edit: the silver lining in this for webOS users is that at least webOS code is open source and we have the dedicated brilliant community to help us. So if kernel 3.3 ever does get mobile devices with enough open parts and, provided QT falls into the right hands to continue to maintain it, we should at least get open webOS running on a new tablet eventually.

so the touchpad is basically a paperweight now.what a waste of money

Oh dear, did yours stop working?

Yes. You better give yours to me.

Here, in the Ex-HP-Customer Headquarters, the tough decision was made not to support any HP hardware by spending money on it in the forseeable future as we just have enough personel to make enough spare money to support their old-fashioned selfish strategies that were never intended to support customer interests.

Me said, that while it is a tough decision to make, we will focus intensively on our efforts to only buy from companies that realize that customer oriented update strategies are important. Apple has realized that since forever, even Samsung slowly gets the idea, but HP still shows no interest in updating devices beyond making them bearly functionable..

I continued stating that its my first and foremost priority not to support any company that does not get that investing a few bucks in their customer base will ensure that these customers feel cared about and that any manager not getting it is not the right person to make such a decision.

Looking forward I can only hope that the result of this work can be taken away from them as soon as possible and that we will never need to hear such dumbminded text block talk of a mini group manager again in the near future.

Be ensured that we will take any measures to support this decision and that we are looking forward to work with any manufacturer that has an interest in their customer above just selling them more dead plastic.

What is an example of an Apple "customer oriented update strategy"? When they deleted Siri out of the app store and off of all the iPhone 4 devices that were already running it so that they could force people to buy a 4S? The argument was that the 4S had improved hardware to make it work, but all the actual heavy-lifting is done on remote servers!! When they upgrade their computer OS in a way that even though it's a .x update, it won't run on hardware that was running the previous update? Go drink some more Kool-Aid!! I was fine on my Pre- until the cellular radio died, then I made the choice to move to a Pre3 (I bought 2 so I have a backup) on AT&T even though I'd been with Sprint for about 12 years... I also have 2 TouchPads, one of which is dual-booting Android. I'm happy with my hardware, at least for now.

Apple thinks they are big enough to start playing games with "upgrades", forcing you to keep buying new hardware in order to keep all of your apps working. I have a 2 year old Ipod Touch, and I now have several major apps that will not update, and others I can't download, since Apple is no longer updating the IOS for my Ipod Touch. Apple went so far as to "turn off" the existing apps that could not be updated; I had to jailbreak the device just to use the apps I already had been using. I can't see having to spend $250 every 2 years just to be able to keep using popular apps. Bottom line, its not just HP. I wonder how long it will take before we start seeing some anti-trust lawsuits or class-action lawsuits around this practice.

Nice work Derek. Thank you. I have a few thoughts that will hopefully provoke a few more questions for you...

In my layman's understanding, it appears to me that Meg and her team are making the right choices to give Enyo and webOS real chances at a widespread future: Enyo is inherently built on its ability to be ported (and even cloud-based) and the compromise decision to support the 3.3 kernel seems another target at expected future devices. Forget the TouchPad: Wouldn't you want to see users of Android devices willingly choosing to hijack their devices with webOS?

Is HP 'quietly' riding the backs of the developmental path for Android including its hardware partners? I like it. And why not? Android has paved the way with widespread developmental partnerships (not to mention Android has been "porting' the best of webOS into its every update so we need to stick-it-to-them ;-).

Furthermore, given "HP is continuing to partner with WebOS Ports on the Community Edition and offering support, guidance, and even contributing to the open source code where they can..." sounds like HP could also be positioning itself for behind-the-curtains support for a cyanogen-style webOS hijacking strategy. Sweet.

While these strategies seem reasonable for unleashing Enyo and webOS to the world, I still cannot quite grasp the fit of HP in all of this:

Is HP planning to inherently develop a firmware/software/porting division? What is the ultimate benefit to HP? Surely these decisions are not meant as sentimental webOS community support or even corporate image Leo-damage-control. Was this also a preemptive counter to the possibility of Microsoft's entering hardware development and an apparently proprietary-software-sales strategy of Windows 8?

I do not see the future fit of HP in all of this. Will HP plan on spinning of the division as a separate company for future sale and partial financial recovery?

After I re-read what I joust wrote it may not make any sense to me either... be kind...

It's time for my daily London fix...

Cheers!

I don't understand why some folks here are bitchin' around so much. obviously all of them want the newest for the fewest, but this is not how the game works. I got a pre3 and like most of the people here I didn't spend 599,- for it, and I'm happy with it as it is. And in my opinion just the pre3 is good hardware, everything else (pres, pixis and even the touchpad) is crap, as far as quality is concerned. I totally agree with HP. For comparison, I don't think that any 2 or 3 year old LG or Samsung phone will get an Android 4.1 update. With the community editions, HP does enough and more than others would do.

We are concerned about at least two things:

1) if 3rd party hardware manufacturers will adopt openWebOS. It would be better if we had an current community using and evangelizing to create enthusiasm for this. It would be better if HP would do more to support adoption that just create the software.

2) As I understand it there are no mobile devices with linux 3.3 and all the open drivers needed currently on the market.

3. In addition, webos internals is not the same as cyanogen as webos internals does not like to use proprietary drivers for which they do not have permission to use.

As far as your opinions about HP hardware, you are entitled to them. I like all the hardware except for Pre- and Pre+

hmmmm,

i`m happy with my Pre -, Pre 2, Pre 3, Pr3 (Quertz,16GB modified) TP 32 and TP 64 GB

AS THEY ARE, with homebrew improvements....

I hope that in next future we don´t run in problems with the profiles,
without - our gadgets are realy dumb plastic,

and for the future- i run my tools as long as they do, but what comes next ? ....
who knows.

But would be happy to use WebOS on my next gadgets.

ported WebOS or Open Web OS , anyway

Since there is no hardware that the open webOS can be installed on at the moment does that mean I would be able to install it on a desktop?

I would much rather use webOS than Ubuntu on my computer.

As much as I love webos this is just dumb. I don't see many if any oems adopting open webos. It just doesn't make sense not to at least port open webos to something.

All im interested in is getting ACL on my Touchpad/Pre3 , will we get ACL with the community edition or what.
I would love to use Android in the cards for torrents and stuff, hate having to boot into Android to use a couple of apps that aren't available on WebOS.
Please Openmobile let us use ACL on Touchpad/Pre3 :)

When they stop paying for the CDN's operating Synergy, I'll just throw my devices away. (Recycling them seems pointless: nobody wants 'em at all.)

I'm done.

Sell it. People wants to use for android. Or give it to me ;)

Surely HP wouldn't be doing this unless they knew of some LSK 3.3 hardware coming out that it would work on?

Right?

I finally got a chance to catch up on the newest articles Derek.. Again us true webOS fans got caught ass/u/ming again.
By the way, how was the puddle jumper flight and did the motel have one of those worn out beds that's driven by quarters?
Actually I hope they treated you as good as gold. You deserve it for all your hard work.

so how much is hp paying webos nation to put a pro/positive spin on this decision?

want to know what i think? "priorities" is just a bunch of bullshit. an excuse.

how nice of hp to 'thank' its loyal supporters of their dying webos by completely cutting them out of the equation.

news is news

touchpad is slick and fast ...it's heavy ...it sits on my desk in the easel charger and never moves ...if it didn't have cm9 on it, I would have sold it long ago...