About OpenWebOS

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What is Open webOS?


webOS on a HP / Palm Pre 2 Smartphone in “card view” (showing running apps grouped together)

Open webOS is an open-source mobile operating system based on Palm webOS, which was originally developed by Palm Inc. and released on the Palm Pre Smartphone in June 2009. webOS has its roots in Linux, but features a UI and application framework built on top of web technologies such as HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS. Rendering of the UI is achieved through a custom WebKit engine codenamed “Luna”.

Following its acquisition of Palm Inc. in April 2010, Hewlett Packard (HP) re-wrote webOS to include tablet support, ahead of the HP TouchPad’s ultimate release in July 2011. After a surprise decision to halt all production, sales and future development of webOS-based hardware in August 2011, HP decided to release an open source version of the webOS operating system. Open webOS was officially released in September 2012 . On 25 February 2013, HP announced the sale of its remaining webOS division to LG Electronics, who are still actively contributing to the Open webOS code base.

Detailed information on the history and technical aspects of webOS / Open webOS can be found on the webOS Wiki and on the Open webOS Project site.

What made webOS unique?

The design of the webOS UI was led by current Director of Android User Experience at Google Inc., Matias Duarte. The design language was elegant, whilst still preserving the simplicitiy principles that made the original Palm OS successful (aka Zen of Palm).

Unique features of webOS included:

  • The original card-based multi-tasking interface (including live-view, stacking, reordering and flick to dismiss apps / cards)
  • Unobtrusive, actionable notifications
  • Extensive support for gestures
  • Synergy synchronization
  • Native Adobe Flash support
  • Just Type Universal Search
  • Wave Launcher
  • Easy access to true Developer Mode (Root Access) through use of the Konami code or special keyword
  • Palm Online Profile device backup and synchronization to the cloud
  • The first implementation of an “Over The Air (OTA)” update mechanism to provide webOS users with the ability to receive OS updates directly on their Smartphones.

Screenshots and a more detailed explanation of each of these unique features is in the next section[LINK].

webOS also has an active and committed Homebrew Community that is largely driven by WebOS Internals, the developers of an application called Preware. This application is essentially a portal that provides direct access to homebrew apps and UI / System customizations developed under an unique patching sytem that did not require tethering to a computer, and also provided the ability to easily revert changes made.

Detailed look at webOS unique features

Multi-tasking interface *


Card view (multitasking) on webOS

In webOS, "cards" are used to represent apps and manage multitasking. Users switch between running applications with a horizontal swipe between screens when in “card view”. Closing applications are achieved by flicking a "card" up and "off" the screen. The application "cards" can also be grouped together by stacking the cards on top of each other. They can also be simply re-arranged by touching and holding the card.

Unobtrusive, Actionable Notifications *


Red boxes mark the Notification Areas on webOS-based smartphones (left) and tablets (right)

The webOS notification area is located on the bottom portion of the screen on smartphones, and on the top status bar area on tablets.


Receiving notifications (collapsed view) on webOS-based smartphones (left) and tablets (right)

When a notification is recevied on webOS smartphones, the notification area slides in slightly from the bottom of the screen and displays a small notification icon for the relevant app(s).


Receiving notifications (expanded, actionable view) on webOS-based smartphones (left) and tablets (right)

Users can tap on the notification area to see an expanded view of the notifications, which will result in the notification area sliding in even further from the bottom of the screen. In the expanded view, actionable notification banners similar to those in the Android (> 4.1) notification pulldown are shown. Previews of contents of the notification can also be shown in this view. Just like Android (> 4.1), notification banners can be dismissed by swiping the notification to the side of the screen.


Receiving multiple notifications (collapsed view) on webOS-based smartphones (left) and tablets (right)


Receiving multiple notifications (expanded, actionable view) on webOS-based smartphones (left) and tablets (right)

When multiple notifications from the same app are received, the banners will be aggregated and a notification badge displayed. Users can either action (tap) / dismiss (swipe) individual / grouped notifications.

Due to the resizable nature of the Mojo and Enyo application frameworks used by webOS, applications will automatically resize themselves to allow unhindered use while notification icons are displayed. After focus is returned to the application, the notification area returns to a smaller slide-out where only small notification icons are visible. The user can again tap on the icons to expand them.