HP contributes webOS to open source. Where next for HP mobile devices?

HP has announced that webOS, the mobile operating system acquired with Palm, will become an open source project:

HP will make the underlying code of webOS available under an open source license. Developers, partners, HP engineers and other hardware manufacturers can deliver ongoing enhancements and new versions into the marketplace.

HP will engage the open source community to help define the charter of the open source project under a set of operating principles:

  • The goal of the project is to accelerate the open development of the webOS platform
  • HP will be an active participant and investor in the project
  • Good, transparent and inclusive governance to avoid fragmentation
  • Software will be provided as a pure open source project

Despite the upbeat language, the fact that HP does not state that it will actually manufacture any webOS devices suggests that this is more a retreat than an advance. What kind of investment will HP put into webOS, if it is not selling devices?

Another problem is that Google Android is doing a great job meeting the demand for a freely available and mostly open source mobile operating system, leaving little space for other projects such as webOS or the Intel-sponsored MeeGo.

The question that interest me: where will HP now go with its mobile devices? There are several possibilities. It could do nothing, and focus on servers and PCs, thereby missing out on what is potentially a huge market. It could throw its hand in with Microsoft, with Windows 8 tablets sometime next year, and maybe some future version of Windows Phone. Or it could embrace Android, which still seems to have unstoppable momentum despite poor sales for most Android tablets.