by Derek Kessler on 9/28/2012 | Filed Under: News; Tags: App Catalog, Backup, PDK, synergy, mojo, roadmap, open source, webOS Account, Open webOS, Open webOS 1.0, Open webOS OE, Qt 5, WebKit2 | 14 comments
So Open webOS 1.0 is finally upon us. It's a complete operating system, in the sense that you can boot it and use it, but it's missing some things and could stand to be improved in some ways. HP's aware of that, and they've got a plan to tackle some of it, but other items will have to be done by third parties.
First up, here's what's on the Open webOS roadmap for "the coming months" (sigh). HP plans to implement Qt 5 and WebKit2, bringing the latest HTML5, CSS3, and other web technology support to Open webOS. Qt 5 saw its first beta release late last month, so it might be a little while before its fully integrated into Open webOS, though once it is we hope we'll see some of the benefits purportedly available thanks to Qt 5, including better use of GPU resources for smoother hardware-accelerated graphics (something that's been a long time coming for webOS users). On that same sort of note, there's still optimization to be done with SysMgr, with an improved rendering architecture planned for a future update to Open webOS.
Faster and smoother isn't the only thing planned for Open webOS 1.x. HP's roadmap of unspecified timeframe also includes "open sourced media and audio components", the open source BlueZ Bluetooth stack, and the implementation of ConnMan network management. So if you were fearing that HP's plans for Open webOS were to complete the long-public roadmap, release it to open source, and walk away with their hands metaphorically clean; fear not. They've at least got some improvements for Open webOS in mind, though the 'what comes next' is still an open question.
Open webOS 1.0 is dropping support for the old-school Mojo application framework introduced with webOS 1.0 back in 2009. Mojo was designed for phones specifically and added to the TouchPad and webOS 3.0 to help ease the transition. It was always in the cards to deprecate Mojo application support, and with Open webOS 1.0 that time has come. Also missing is support for natively-coded PDK applications, though we're told that adding that support in is on the roadmap (though apparently not the published roadmap of ambiguous timeframe).
Another big thing missing from Open webOS is all of the webOS Account services we've come to know and love, including the App Catalog and Backup. Those things cost HP money, and while they're not necessarily going anywhere, they're not something that HP's going to include in an operating system that they give away for free. While we webOS users may not have ever 'paid' for the services in a traditional sense, the cost of providing them was always factored into the price of the device itself. HP tells us that like Google's Android OS and Google Play, HP would be willing to entertain the idea of providing services like the App Catalog and Backup through a business agreement with a partner manufacturer. That said, for the sure-to-be many of us that are ready to go ahead and install Open webOS on a device on our own, we'd love for HP to consider offering these services on a direct-to-customers basis, even if for a fee.
Also missing are the oodles of Synergy services previously available to webOS users. While the framework for Synergy is still there, the services like Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and Facebook that we're so used to pulling data from are no longer available. Like plenty of other things in the 450,000 lines of code that HP's engineers had to comb through before open sourcing the software, these closed-source third party bits had to be removed. They could still be added in as part of a not open source distribution (like the vast majority of Android devices), but for now they're not present. Thankfully the ability to add them in individually is already a part of webOS, so if HP or another party wanted to add additional Synergy services to Open webOS, they could. Until then you'll have to make do with POP and IMAP emails.
The biggest and most obvious thing missing from Open webOS right now is a device. Like the Android Open Source Project, Open webOS is being distributed in a device agnostic manner. But it is designed such that it can run on all manner of devices, including smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers. And thanks to the OpenEmbedded integration in Open webOS OE, the operating system is for all intents and purposes kernel agnostic. HP tells us that it "already runs on a range of [Android] kernels from 2.6 to 3.2", so while porting it to an Android device might not be the easiest of tasks, it is fully possible. HP says they "are working closely with the community to make sure they have everything they need to port", which is a very welcoming thing to hear, and we've only heard good things from the likes of Tom King of WebOS Ports about HP's help and contributions to their open source porting endeavors.
Open webOS 1.0 is 'complete', in the sense that it is a functional operating system. But compared to the previous not-open source versions of webOS and the many competing operating systems available today it's seriously lacking in some very serious ways. HP has their plans to move the operating system forward, and we're not yet certain how that's going to work with respect to Gram, but we can at least be assured that HP's not planning to outright abandon our favorite little operating system that could.