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HP Has Open Sourced webOS’ browser, Isis

by Abel Avram on Feb 15, 2012 |

HP has open sourced Isis, a QtWebKit-based browser, and has outlined the guiding principles for Open webOS’ governance model.

HP started to deliver the first bits of the Open webOS back in January, when it open sourced its JavaScript framework, Enyo, that has been downloaded 40,000 times over the last 3 weeks, according to the company. They promised more code to be released to the general public in February, and they came true releasing the code for Isis, the new webOS browser, and providing the governance model for webOS’ future development. They have also announced the integration of WebKit’s JavaScriptCore, and the Enyo widgets are to be released later this month.

The interesting news is the release of Isis, a browser based on QtWebKit, initially open sourced by Nokia. HP said they decided to use a WebKit-based browser engine because it is fast and standards-compliant. Isis uses a client-server model separating the rendering process from the user interface in order to deliver a responsive UI. The Browser Server renders content to an off-screen shared buffer while the Browser Adapter takes care of displaying the buffer’s content on the screen.

Isis supports Netscape plug-ins and Flash. Isis’ interface has been written in Enyo and HP plans to port it to different platforms in the future and various device form factors besides tablets. The code has been made available under Apache 2.0 license.

The governance model mentions the splitting up of webOS into several smaller projects for better management and involvement from developers: Enyo, Isis, the Linux Standard Kernel, and the webOS System Manager. Each project will be led by a Project Management Committee (PMC) consisting of committers elected from the community. For the beginning, all committers come from HP, but other members of the community will be promoted based on their involvement. The model promises: “Consensus decision-making”, “Open and transparent communications”, and “Responsible oversight with deference to the community”. Overall, HP comes with a model inspired by the Apache Way, but there is no suggestion or plans to entrust the project over to Apache.

While HP seems quite involved in creating the Open webOS and determined in sticking with the release plan, we are still far from being able to anticipate the success of the project whose future heavily relies on its adoption by manufacturers and developers. The adoption of the Linux Standard Kernel will certainly make it easier for device makers to embrace webOS but it remains to see how many will have the courage to do it after HP’s expensive failure with their TouchPad and the fact that even Android tablets have not managed to get a significant market share.

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