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Open WebOS reborn in new LuneOS release

Sep 3, 2014 — by Eric Brown 4,025 views

The Open WebOS mobile Linux operating system has been renamed “LuneOS,” and is available in an “Affogato” release supporting HP’s TouchPad and LG’s Nexus 4.

WebOS is back — yet again — in an open source “LuneOS” respin of the Open WebOS project, itself a spinoff of the proprietary WebOS. The WebOS Ports backed project, which was officially called “WebOS Ports Open WebOS,” released an Alpha 2 version in June 2013, and a year later announced its new project name based on the platform’s LunaSysMgr UI. The goal of LuneOS is “not to reach feature comparison with Android or iOS but rather building a system to satisfy basic needs in the mobile environment,” says the project.

The still alpha-stage “Affogato” release, the first of many coffee-themed rolling releases due to arrive each month, supports LG’s Nexus 4 Android phone, as well as HP’s previously WebOS-based HP TouchPad tablet. The Galaxy Nexus phone and Nexus 7 tablet are also supported, but will no longer be actively maintained unless someone else steps up to do so, says the LuneOS project.

LuneOS Affogato main screen (left) and settings screen
(click images to enlarge)

WebOS background


It’s been a long, strange trip for Palm’s Linux-based WebOS, which 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, and the Open WebOS project appeared to lose steam.

LG, which now appears to have the rights to the Open WebOS name, 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. So far, LG has not expanded its use of WebOS except for a similar digital signage version. (A more complete history of WebOS and Open WebOS may be found in in our coverage of the LG signage platform.)

HP TouchPad

The 9.7-inch HP TouchPad received some tough reviews, but it shipped in fairly high volume thanks to steep discounts offered by HP in order to clear out its inventory. The tablet features 1024 x 768-pixel resolution, offers a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and runs on a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8060 processor with 1GB RAM.

Google’s LG-built Nexus 4, meanwhile, offers a 4.7-inch, 1280 x 768 IPS screen with a quad-core, 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro and Adreno 320 graphics. The Nexus 4 provides 2GB of RAM and 8GB or 16GB of storage. Other features include 8- and 1.3-megapixel cameras, plus WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and more.

LG-built Nexus 4

Inside LuneOS Affogato

The LuneOS Affogato release is still essentially at alpha stage, and comes with a caveat to “use at your own risk.” Features that are not yet implemented include Bluetooth, the accelerometer, cameras, and ALS. Audio and WiFi “should work, though might be buggy,” says the project.

The release is the first to showcase a completely rewritten LunaSysMgr called Luna Next, which advances to more modern components such as WebKit 2 and QT 5.2 and QML. The new release also implements the new rolling release update mechanism. The project is still working on making the updates automated.

Working apps include a basic browser, memos, the Preware application manager, and a still somewhat buggy Enyo-based email program. There’s also a “stubbed” contacts app, an initial calendar app “with no real backend functionality,” synergy connectors for online endpoints like Google and Yahoo, and a preliminary phone app. The contacts sync feature is said to be improved.

Other Affogato improvements include the implementation of libhybris in order to enable easy portability on available Android based devices. The technology lets LuneOS reuse Android graphics drivers, as well as the Android telephony system (rild). Future goals include reusing Android hardware acceleration, sensor integration, and camera features. (There are no plans for supporting Android apps.) Additional future goals include adding a native QML-based phone application, Media Indexer Support, and video playback.

Further information

The alpha-stage LuneOS Affogato release is available for free download for the HP TouchPad, Nexus 4. Galaxy Nexus, and Nexus 7. More information may be found at the LuneOS Affogato announcement on PivotCE, as well as at the LuneOS project site.

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