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HP's WebOS goes against spirit of Linux and free operating systems

Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad has generated a lot of excitement, as so has WebOS 3.0, the Linux-based OS that runs the device. Linux fans are claiming that the arrival of WebOS 3.0 is a sure sign of Linux's arrival, and the death knell for Windows.

But I beg to differ -- the closed nature of WebOS goes against the very free nature of Linux and could in fact hurt the growth of the OS.

WebOS is the death knell for closed operating systems on Windows, and a sign that Linux has arrived on the desktop, says The Linux Foundation's Jim Zemlin in a blog entry. HP plans to put WebOS in future laptops and desktops, so Zemlin has a point, but he's forgetting that the OS is exclusive to HP devices. To take advantage of features such as easy data exchange between devices, users will need WebOS devices on both ends.

That means people will have buy into HP devices, much like they do with Apple. That betrays the open-source nature of Linux, and the cooperative nature of developers. Canonical has been championing cooperation between developers, working with Linux heavyweights such as Intel and Google.

Zemlin also writes that HP’s decision to "build its next-generation of devices on Linux and WebOS is good for HP, good for other Linux-based OSes."

That does not make sense -- like Palm, HP will try to attract developers to write applications for WebOS. But HP paid billions of dollars to acquire Palm and WebOS,  and it absolutely no reason to work with the wider Linux developer base. It wants to keep control of WebOS in-house, and will shut down any efforts for WebOS to work seamlessly with, say, Android.

And if Zemlin thinks HP will change its partnership, he's misguided. HP is smart enough not to put all its eggs in one basket, and that a big chunk of the enterprise runs on Windows. If anything, WebOS could run as a co-operating system alongside Windows.

The Linux Foundation is now working on Meego, which is on the road to being rejected by Nokia for use on its mobile devices. Nokia is said to be adopting Microsoft's closed Windows Phone 7 OS for its future smartphones, and a thinner version (Symbian?) for its low-end handsets. Just a few days after praising WebOS, Zemlin could have some bad news in is hands.