LG webOS Open Source Edition kicks off global trek

To consumers, and probably even to some businesses, there are really only a handful of operating systems in the world. There's Windows, Mac, and Linux for desktops and Android and iOS for mobile. Of course, the reality isn't as simple as that and there are a lot more than you can count, like Google's Chrome OS, the Linux Foundation's (really Samsung's) Tizen, Jolla's Sailfish, the discontinued Mozilla Firefox OS, and LG's webOS. That last one is trying to grow out of its niche status and become a serious contender, and LG is open sourcing part of it in order to help it become a global platform.

webOS's story actually didn't start with LG. It traces its roots back to the now defunct Palm. It was Palm's attempt at modernizing its operating system and catching up with the smartphone-centric world that left it by the wayside. It was, however, too late and HP snatched up Palm and later sold webOS to LG.

webOS at one point in time was also open source. After HP acquired palm, it released the Open webOS edition. It became closed again when LG bought it from HP. So it's a bit amusing to see it being partly opened up again.

LG isn't open sourcing all of webOS but is only releasing an open source edition of the still proprietary OS. Unlike Android and iOS, and more like Firefox OS, webOS, as the name would suggest, is a web-centric platform. It leverages HTML and Javascript, namely the Enact framework and React library, to write the software that runs on LG's smart TVs and smart home appliances. But that's pretty much all webOS used for.

For some reason, LG was inspired to break out webOS into the global market. In addition to partnering with Korea's National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA), LG is launching the webOS Open Source Edition (webOS OSE) to provide interested developers and businesses with the source code and development tools to integrate webOS into their products. Whether that will be enough to pull webOS into the global arena remains to be seen. Tizen, while also an open source platform, hasn't seen much use outside of Samsung's smart TVs and smartwatches.