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HP TouchPadAfter shopping webOS around to major companies like Amazon and Qualcomm, HP has decided to make the platform available to the open source community, the company announced today.

The move allows third-party companies to use webOS, but HP will still be able to guide development of the platform. HP says it will be an “active participant and investor in the project.”

“webOS is the only platform designed from the ground up to be mobile, cloud-connected and scalable,” HP CEO Meg Whitman said in a statement today. “By contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices.”

But while webOS will live on, HP will likely still follow-up the news with more layoffs from its webOS group. After all, with help from the open source community, HP won’t need as many bodies on board to push the platform forward. We heard that the company was close to releasing several new webOS devices before it decided to get out of the mobile business earlier this year.

HP said in a blog post today that it will “explore the viability” of new webOS devices, but I don’t see that happening (aside from the company’s curious obsession with webOS printers). Update: Whitman says that HP hasn’t given up on tablets just yet — it’s working on webOS tablets for later 2012 or 2013, reports the Verge.

The news is particularly good for consumers, since it means we can see webOS popping up on non-HP devices in the future. And if you picked up one of those cheap TouchPad tablets, there’s the potential that you’ll actually be able to receive updates in the future (though intellectual property issues may make that impossible), or upgrade the slate entirely to an open sourced version of webOS.

We reported in September that Amazon was one of many companies in deep negotiations to acquire webOS, a varied group that at times was said to include Intel, Qualcomm, and RIM. HP was actively trying to sell webOS up until last month, when we caught word that it was also demanding a sweet deal to use webOS in its future printers. Now, as an open source project, HP will still be able to throw webOS on its printers (yay?), while also getting development help for free.

HP says it will open source the underlying webOS code and work together with the open source community to define a charter for the open source webOS project. Additionally, HP says it will make ENYO, the webOS application framework, available to the open source community as well.

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