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Open source version of webOS launches with smart device focus

Mar 20, 2018 — by Eric Brown 2,121 views

LG has released webOS Open Source Edition optimized for the Raspberry Pi 3 that expands its HTML5-savvy Linux distro beyond LG smart TVs and fridges to a larger “smart devices” market.

In collaboration with the South Korean government, consumer electronics giant LG announced the release of webOS Open Source Edition, an open source version of its well-traveled, web-oriented Linux distro. Under LG’s ownership, the old Palm- and HP-directed OS has been a largely proprietary stack running on its smart TVs and refrigerators. LG’s webOS OSE, which is backed up by a community site with forums, guides, tools, and source code, is now available to the open source community to build a range of “smart devices.” Optimized for the Raspberry Pi 3, the Apache-licensed platform requires an Ubuntu desktop for development.

webOS Open Source Edition startup page (left) and architecture
(click images to enlarge)

The short press release, which was brought to our attention via a Liliputing post, was presented as part of a joint development project with South Korea’s National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA). LG announced it will solicit webOS business proposals from hundreds of start-ups recommended by NIPA, “and shortlist the most viable ones to provide logistical and technical support with commercialization as the ultimate goal.” The first webOS OSE projects will be demonstrated at upcoming events such as the Linux Foundation’s Open Source Summit and OSCON conferences.

LG had no more details except to say that — like Mozilla’s defunct Firefox OS — webOS will continue to focus on a web-based rather than app-based interface (see quote at end). It’s unclear whether its proprietary webOS stack will open further, and to what degree apps developed with webOS OSE will run on LG’s smart TVs and other webOS appliances and vice versa. Another question is whether LG will integrate webOS OSE in its SmartThinQ smart hub and automation ecosystem.


webOS OSE is available now in a 1.0 release, which offers an OpenEmbedded build system and Yocto Project code. Like the proprietary version, webOS is touted for its strong multitasking capability and it support for web technologies like HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS3. The stack offers a CLI, as well as an “LS2 API” that “offers the mechanism that enables sending and receiving data within a single device.”

In the open source version, webOS’ SysMgr has been split into a System and Application Manager (SAM), which manages apps and services, and a Luna Surface Manager (LSM) for handling system UI. There’s also a new uMediaServer and Media Display Controller (MDC).

The stack incorporates Enact, an app development library that works on top of the React libraries. It also includes open source components including Qt 5.6, Blink (replacing WebKit), Systemd, Wayland, and a Chromium 53 based browser.

Palm Pre

webOS background

It’s been a long, strange trip for Palm’s Linux-based webOS, which despite its reputation for superior multitasking, could never quite blossom under the dark shadows of Android and iOS. HP gave it a whirl with its webOS-based TouchPad tablet and revamped Pre phones, but in 2011 it closed down the project, spinning off the platform as an open source Open webOS project.

The mostly independent Open webOS project released version 1.0 in Sept. 2012, but to the disappointment of webOS stalwarts, it ran only on an Android-based Nexus phone, not on Pre phones or TouchPad. Five months later, LG bought webOS from HP.

LG revamped the proprietary webOS with many open source components, including a new foundation in Yocto, and released it as the basis for its well-reviewed LG Smart TV platform. The stack has also appeared in a digital signage version and a smart refrigerator.


In 2015, Open webOS evolved into an open source LuneOS project. LG does not appear to be a collaborating with the group, which would be difficult in any case considering the changes to the codebase.

“When LG adopted webOS for our popular smart TV lineup in 2013, it did so with the knowledge that webOS had tremendous potential,” stated I.P. Park, Chief Technology Officer at LG Electronics. “webOS has come a long way since then and is now a mature and stable platform ready to move beyond TVs to join the very exclusive group of operating systems that have been successfully commercialization at such a mass level. As we move from an app-based environment to a web-based one, we believe the true potential of webOS has yet to be seen.”

Further information

LG’s webOS Open Source Edition 1.0 is available now for free download. More information may be found in LG’s webOS OSE announcement and at the webOS OSE website and GitHub page.

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