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New leaks suggest WebOS had fundamental design problems

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WebOS apparently had fundamental design flaws
The WebOS saga has played out to a rapt audience – HP’s $1.2 billion dollar acquisition, the unrealized expectations of the Pre smartphone, and the short-lived but spectacular flop of the TouchPad. Fans of WebOS questioned whether the flop was a lack of commitment from then-CEO Leo Apotheker, who seemed more interested in turning HP away from consumer-facing products.

According to current and prior employees that spoke to the New York Times, there may be another reason why HP struggled to get good products out the door: WebOS itself has fundamental design flaws.

WebOS was created in under a year, and apparently several shortcuts were taken. One example was the lack of APIs for developers to use. The original WebOS apps were created in house from scratch, and only after it shipped did a set of APIs get retrofitted to WebOS.

Paul Mercer, former senior director of software at Palm, indicated that the problems in WebOS lay deeper still. While much has been said about the forward-looking nature of Palm’s use of the WebKit platform that WebOS is built on (the same software platform that Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome browsers are built on) Mercer cited this as a key mistake. According to Mercer this prevents WebOS devices from achieving the interactivity and app speed seen on the iPhone and Android devices.

HP put a lot of resources into upgrading WebOS’s underlying code, but despite shipping with a powerful 1.2GHz dual-core CPU the TouchPad was consistently criticized for being significantly slower than competing tablets.

Mercer feels that the web-based mobile operating system will continue to prevent it from competing with the level of interactivity seen in other top mobile platforms, stating “If the bar is to build Cupertino-class software in terms of responsiveness and beauty, WebKit remains not ready for prime time, because the Web cannot deliver yet.”

source: NY Times via electronista

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