Is this the end of the road for webOS?

Is this the end of the road for webOS?
It really is strange when we think about it. It seems like it was yesterday when all eyes were set on Palm's webOS – a shiny newcomer in the industry, promising to finally put an end to the iPhone's undisputed reign. Yesterday quickly passed though, and today HP – the company which eventually acquired Palm and its webOS - announced that it's discontinuing its operations for webOS devices. Why? What went wrong? A lot of stuff, really. But let's start from...

Where it all began

It all began at CES 2009, where Palm, a still independent company, introduced its once considered revolutionary and innovative mobile operating system, dubbed webOS. There was a lot of nice stuff going for this software – it looked unique, had an intriguing card-based multitasking system, deep integration of different services and a fresh take on device navigation via various gestures, which actually didn't seem too complicated to be gotten used to by an average Joe. The Palm Pre was the pilot device for this new OS, and although it wasn't a born leader, it looked cute with its pebble-like shape.

The long-anticipated launch of the Palm Pre was where the problems started. It turned out that the phone isn't really a product of fine craftsmanship – users complained of unpleasantly-feeling plastics being used, as well as numerous faults, again attributed to the construction of the handset. We hear what you're saying -  there hardly is a handset with no production issues. This is absolutely true, and the real problem with the design of the Pre was that it wasn't aggressive. A cute, chubby pebble? C'mon! Who would consider this a real threat for the iPhone? We did, but the market said otherwise. And what good is an OS, be it a pretty decent one, if it isn't running on a similarly impressive handset?

This was the mistake that was never made by the competition, in the form of Google, Motorola and Verizon.

The rise of Android

One rarely gets a second chance in the wild (and the landscape in the wireless industry for the last few years has been quite wild indeed). The smallest mistake could be fatal. Palm made a mistake, and didn't even have time to fix it, as this was the moment when the Android mania began to furiously overtake the market. In a few months, the Motorola DROID hit, and no one cared anymore about the Pre and the rest of the smaller players, who suddenly felt unnecessary and irrelevant. A very inappropriate moment if you want to introduce something new, right?  Let alone if you want to fix something broken, and convince people that you've learned from your mistakes.

Now that we're deep into 2011 and Android is nothing new, are we ready for a new major OS to enter the business? Nah, Android is still interesting, and the iPhone sells better than ever. Plus, it just seems like there isn't enough smartphone consumer base yet to sustain a third healthy OS ecosystem. At this point, it is hard to imagine that the iPhone will go away, so it seems people will first have to get a bit tired of Android, which probably won't happen anytime soon. If it does happen, strong alternatives like webOS will be sought, but until then, manufacturers will have great trouble trying to push them forcefully to the market. Maybe that's why HP has given up, and maybe it's right to do so, because even if webOS has been part of the landscape for the last couple of years, it has never been big enough to become part of the average consumer's mindset. And a few loyal fanboys just won't cut it.

Battling for the third place

Even if there's this possibility of a third major OS being sucessfully established, Windows Phone 7 seems like the more likely candidate for now. Microsoft isn't going to give up the fight as easily as HP, although it will have an incredibly hard time as well, seeing the poor results of the first WP7 handsets. However, WP7 has one strong, and very devoted company behind its back, whereas webOS doesn't. Palm wasn't strong enough, and it looks like HP is not really devoted. Once the first disappointing sale results were in, HP was out. It turns out all the talk about an integrated ecosystem of computers, handsets, printers and so on has been, for the most part, just daydreaming.

So, it seems to us that Windows Phone has much better chances to establish itself as a prominent figure, which actually leaves webOS with such diminished chances for a breakthrough that we would hardly have our hopes high for it soon.

The Licensee

In June, HP said it is looking to license the webOS software to a small number of companies, in order to take the webOS ecosystem to a higher level. This is indeed a very wise decision, since it was such global scale that helped Android get where it is today. Now that HP itself doesn't intend to make its own smartphones, it is still looking for decent hardware partners to work with. And this might be the only opportunity for webOS to ever see the light of day again. Adoption is critical now, and the more licensees, the better. The only problem is it seems there aren't too many volunteers.

HTC and Samsung do look like appropriate candidates. They are companies that like to act on all possible fronts. HTC proved it isn't afraid of being an early adopter with Android. It produced not the first one, but the first two Android phones, and it's also active on the WP7 front. On the other hand, Samsung is running a healthy business of Android devices, but it also works with WP7 and has its own bada OS, which it is developing slowly and steadily, without burning too much resources in the process. So what's the problem with taking up a small webOS project? It won't bring the platform much popularity, but it will at least keep it alive, until the moment there's demand or need for it arrives. That is very important for the continuation of the OS, since if it ends up totally unused, no one will care to develop it further, and it may soon become obsolete.

The Outcome

The outcome of what's going on around webOS is still unclear. It is pretty unfortunate that HP decided to prematurely discontinue its work on the platform. Obviously, even the little reason why one should get a webOS device (TouchPad, Veer) is now gone, with zero support coming from HP in the future.

The happy-end scenario would involve a licensee from the rank of HTC or Samsung, which is willing to put some effort into designing a compelling webOS smartphone every once in a while, just to keep the fire burning. The negative one involves HP failing to come into agreement with a company, which would most probably mean that the memory of webOS will slowly fade away, or, at best, it means the software will be used in a lineup of printers, which doesn't really sound like the most fitting implementation for a full-fledged mobile operating system, even if it's one that is not particularly rich on apps. We sincerely hope it's the former scenario, as webOS is a great piece of sofware; it just needs to fall in the right hands.



1. dandirk

Posts: 187; Member since: Aug 04, 2011

yes... end of road... rest in pease... adios... see ya later

3. haikallp unregistered

It's really sad to see a potentially successful OS to go just like that. But HP made a grave mistake. They were not serious about WebOS and this is the price you have to pay. The mobile world is tough, only the strongest survive and one cannot be complacent (like nokia and hp)

4. JeffdaBeat unregistered

WebOS was one of the finest OS's on the market, but the missteps taken killed it. Palm should have taken the Android route with the flavor of Windows Phone 7. If this is your last ditch effort to stay afloat, let manufacturers put your OS into as many hands as possible. Give them specifications so not to cause fragmentation and you're good to go. WebOS was so talked about and highly reviewed that Palm would have come back like herpes. But they made it exclusive to Palm and Sprint...the most unpopular company of the four at the time. Sprint and Palm lost out on this. The few customers who thought about leaving their carrier for Sprint were stalled because both AT&T and Verizon made the statement they'd get WebOS in less than a year. And in that less than a year, folks forgot about Palm. HP didn't help because they made the same damn phone with the same rules.

16. snowgator

Posts: 3621; Member since: Jan 19, 2011

Jeff, it is really, really good to see you posting again!!!

24. The_Miz

Posts: 1496; Member since: Apr 06, 2011

It was on a poorly designed piece of garbage phone. Maybe Google can take the offer and improve their horribly overrated OS since Android is still a fluke in design.

25. DroidPositive unregistered

I have read many articles and have read the comments of The_Miz time after time. Do you ever say anything positive about anything? With all the negativity of yours it would not surprise me if you are single and have virtually no friends...We all KNOW you do not like android but if it was near as bad as you try to make it seem then it would not be as popular as it is right now. Do not berate things you do not like just because it is your opinion that it is worthless!

5. PeterIfromsweden

Posts: 1230; Member since: Aug 03, 2011

"Windows Phone 7 seems like the more likely candidate for now" Ahem, PhoneArena, bada has more market share than WP7 and bada looks like it has a big potential to take the number 3 spot.

12. bada this wave that stfu alrea unregistered

Why are all of your posts completely and irrelevantly always about samsung's bada OS and wave series? Its kind of getting annoying and old to say the least. Your worst than Apple fan boys and android fan boys altogether. At least other fan boys are drooling over an OS thats worth talking about.

13. oddmanout

Posts: 443; Member since: May 22, 2009

You GOTTA be joking when you say bada has more potential than WP7 to take the number 3 spot.

14. jura21

Posts: 30; Member since: Jun 20, 2011 q2 2011..bada sold 2.06M handsets and wp7 only 1.76M....bada infact has a good potential in developing countries due to their phones being in range of $149-$400 off contract....while wp7 comes for $500+ without a contract...

29. PeterIfromsweden

Posts: 1230; Member since: Aug 03, 2011

bada definitley has more potential than WP7 to take the number 3 spot. As Jura said, bada sold more than WP7 in Q2. And with bada 2.0.1 coming up and the Wave 3 bada will sell even better in Q4.

28. remyrz

Posts: 205; Member since: Oct 28, 2010

Mr Bada on the move :P... i like your faith man :) Bada is quite good :) but I like WP7 more :/

6. snowgator

Posts: 3621; Member since: Jan 19, 2011

Why would HTC or Samsung jump on this unsupported OS? That is a pipedream. HTC is happily all in on Android and seems committed to W7. Why would they want a third OS? Samsung is the worlds leader in Android sales, and dabbles with W7 while developing Bada in certain markets. Why would they want a fourth OS? If anyone takes on WebOS, maybe a Sony-Errickson or a smaller developer. But do they have the deep pockets to do it? LG has been linked to MeeGo. RIM has QNX to fall back on. Google just spent billions on Motorola, so them purchasing and incorperating it into Android seems like a bad fit money wise. HP seems to have a gem that shines bright, but is just the wrong color or size for any jewler to work with. What a sad, sad waste.

7. Mattgto99 unregistered

What about QNX OS on upcomming blackberries for the #3 spot against WP7

8. Rich unregistered

RIM is on a respirator as well.

9. goodbye unregistered

yep goodbye webos cuz nobody uses you lol, oh meego and symbian when>

10. Moo unregistered

QNX i have used in the mid late 90s when I was exploring alternatives to windows. It had a very small footprint and would pretty much do the basics. RIM has a chance if they use QNX right. As we have read about WebOs you can have a good os but if you do not do the right things it does not do very well.

11. cornerofthemoon

Posts: 620; Member since: Apr 20, 2010

webOS is the Tim Pawlenty of smartphones.

19. dandirk

Posts: 187; Member since: Aug 04, 2011

ha ha ha I'm from Minnesota!

15. jura21

Posts: 30; Member since: Jun 20, 2011

HP should now make it open source if they really want this project to continue

17. daniyo

Posts: 46; Member since: Aug 07, 2011

Peter is bada man! :D

18. corporateJP

Posts: 2458; Member since: Nov 28, 2009

I think it's still too early to write these guys off. What if they do find some partners to incorporate the OS into their portfolios?

20. HP unregistered

Man! they should have sold Palm to HTC instead. HP just don't have the wit nor the experience to make mobile devices. Give a mobile rookie an already endangered platform, and this is the sure result. Totally not surprised!

21. gallitoking

Posts: 4721; Member since: May 17, 2011

Bye WebOs dont let the door hit you on your way out,,,,

22. mnd11 unregistered

The answer is simple, palm failed because it went small. If they had put webos on a phone like the EVO for example. It would still b up n running.


Posts: 3131; Member since: Jan 12, 2010

Android was releasing huge screen, medium screen, and small screen phones left to right. They had all kinds of specs on them, so there was a phone for everyone on any kind of budget. That's what Palm should have done with their Palm Pre. Instead of taking advantage of the excitement and popularity the device had, they just sat there and watched it collect dust. This was a complete and utter epic fail on Palm's part. They should have acted and provided more WebOS devices with different specs. Sure Apple can get away with releasing one phone a year(or in this case, 2 years) because of how blindly their fans follow them. Palm never had that kind of fanbase and failed because of it.

26. danalmillan

Posts: 25; Member since: Jul 08, 2011

I had a palm pre and must admit I never had any major issues with the phone other than the cheap outer shell of it. It would chip or crack very easily and I am not hard on phones at all. If they would have made a better phone body to house the amazing OS inside I personally believe it would have skyrocketed. I have an android now but honestly miss how smooth the webOS ran on my Pre!

27. vijaysivakula

Posts: 229; Member since: Aug 17, 2011

Another shining example of incompetent leaders in huge corporate offices with little to no brains. HP has taken some good things and destroyed them with their stupidity. At least now they should simply give it away to every other manufacturer irrespective of whether they would use it or not. Am sure someone would realize the potential of this wonderful OS and start making devices. HP, don't be a stupid till the very end. Look at history and learn from the many organizations that shot themselves in the leg.

30. joeytidbit unregistered

Glad I waited and didn't buy HP tablet . Guess its a sony s1 for me

32. darkurious

Posts: 10; Member since: Dec 07, 2010

Sad to see WebOS get "Kinned"

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