Web OS Gets Open-Sourced, Tablet OS Options Look Awfully Crowded

When it comes to the tablet market it seems to be a very crowded place with Android and iOS taking up most of that space in consumers’ hearts and minds.

We’ve already seen some troubling fall-outs when it comes to tablet operating systems, such as WebOS and the QNX-based Playbook OS. It’s a crowded place and it’s too early too tell what Microsoft’s role in this market might be.

So why have WebOS and Playbook OS failed? Well technically, neither of them have. Playbook OS is going to at least somewhat be the basis of the Blackberry OS replacement for phones and its future in general seems unclear.

Playbook has a lot of interesting changes going for it, like the recent hack that allows Android’s apps and even store to run on its hardware.

As for WebOS, we know that largely bad marketing and decisions largely killed it. Luckily, it now seems that good decisions by Meg Whitman, the new head of HP, might in fact have WebOS getting some life support.

WebOS is no longer dying, though the prognosis still looks shaky. It seems the decision has been made that Web OS will live on as an open-source project.

This is an interesting move on HP’s part because it means that tinkerers might flock to this open-source alternative and it might mean free research and development that HP can reuse at a later date.

So is this just a nice gift to users instead of throwing Web OS away, or part of a more elaborate plan? Although it is too early to tell, Whitman has confirmed they may very likely continue making tablets that run Web OS.

Right now, Windows 8 is going to be their primary focus but for 2013 we might see the return of Web OS on tablet hardware.

So why such a long hiatus? To me it seems HP is somewhat stumped on where to go with the Web OS technology but doesn’t necessarily want to throw away so much invested coin. By open-sourcing it and stepping into the background they essential have hired thousands of developers to enhance apps and overall inner-working of Web OS but at no cost to them.

After a year or so of open-sourced tinkering they can take what the open-source community has done and push many of these features back into a product. If the open-source idea doesn’t work out though? Well, they at least lost no further money on Web OS.

So what does this all mean for Windows 8? It means that when Windows 8 arrives, it won’t be too long until it has some competition to worry about. Is an open-source Web OS or next generation Blackberry development going to slow down Microsoft any?

Honestly, doubtfully but what it does mean is that the tablet market will continue to be a very crowded place and this means confused consumers.

For Microsoft, this confusion might actually be a blessing. When someone goes looking for a tablet they will see tons of platforms such as iOS, Samsung Bada (currently only in Europe/Japan but rumors suggest this OS may go to the states), Mozilla’s upcoming Boot2Gecko, Android, Web OS, and Windows 8.

For a consumer they will say, “Hey, I know what Windows is. Also I know what iPad is, everyone does.” This means that Windows 8 and Apple’s iPad might have the best chance of standing out thanks to overall brand recognition. Of course, the same could be said about Phone 7 having the “Windows” name and yet it hasn’t really worked out in their favor in the somewhat crowded smartphone OS market. For now this all remains speculation.

Still, with Windows 8 on its way and Web OS (one of my personal favorite tablet Oses) getting life-support, it looks like the tablet war may very well heat up in the next couple years. So what do you think about Web OS getting open-sourced? Is it largely irrelevant at this point, or could it make a difference? Additionally how do you feel about the crowded tablet OS market, will this help Apple and Microsoft stand out? Share your thoughts below!

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