HP has finally decided the fate of webOS today, and it's an open one: the platform will be contributed to the open source community. The company says that it will be an "active participant and investor in the project," and that its ultimate goal here is to accelerate development. In other words, it doesn't want to pump the amount of money into webOS that would be required to make it fully competitive, so it's looking to the public to help make that happen.

As for Enyo — the app framework that underpins webOS 3 and the TouchPad — HP says that it will be contributed in the "near future" along with "the remaining components of the user space." There's no specific verbiage in HP's press release about what won't be contributed, but PreCentral has learned that patents related to webOS will remain under HP control "to protect developers."

It remains to be seen what (if any) hardware HP directly produces for the newly-opened operating system, but it says that today's move creates "the opportunity to significantly improve applications and web services for the next generation of devices," so it certainly expects someone to fill those hardware shoes — and in this model, of course, anyone will be welcome to do so.

The move feels similar to the one that Nokia made several years ago in the creation of the Symbian Foundation to foster open source development of that platform, and that didn't work out too well — it later shuttered the organization, brought Symbian's development back in house, and ultimately announced its long-term phase-out in favor of Windows Phone. Of course, HP isn't a mobile company the same way Nokia is, so it isn't as immediately critical that it find and implement a successful mobile platform. Either way, webOS's fight for relevance is a long, uphill one.

HP has also posted a brief set of FAQs about today's move. Regarding the future of HP-branded webOS hardware, the company says that it will "explore the viability of putting webOS on devices, just as we do for other leading operating systems" — in other words, it doesn't sound like there'll be much favoritism here when it comes time to select a mobile platform (or a printer platform). It also doesn't sound like we should expect any new devices any time soon. For current owners, though, the good news is that they'll "continue to receive software improvements and updates in the future."