While Samsung has already publicly said it won’t buy webOS don’t be surprised if the rumor mill says LG, Amazon or some other company will buy up the operating system. I hope the madness stops and we can just webOS die already.
WebOS has already kind of died twice now. When HP bought Palm for $1.2 billion last year, it was the death of an independent webOS under Palm but this was seen as a good thing because HP had the resources to really push it at scale. After a few middling products, HP killed its webOS products too and left its future up in the air.
HP has been backpedaling like crazy ever since it said it would discontinue its webOS products, as it is still trying to get some value out of the Palm purchase. There’s news that it has split its webOS team in order to potentially license out the platform to other players. At the same time though, HP’s CEO Leo Apotheker is doing his best to discourage others from using it when he said, “to make this investment [webOS] a financial success would require significant investments over the next one to two years creating risks without clear returns.”
Enough. WebOS should go down as an interesting technology platform and its impact will be felt in other ways but let’s stop pretending it’s better than it is. I haven’t seen another platform that is so loved by the tech press and which can’t catch on with consumers at large. It has had its chances and it’s time to admit that it’s failed and that it may not be worth it for another company to give it a third change.
I’m a big NBA fan and webOS reminds me a lot of Eddy Curry. Curry was a phenom in high school, reminded many people of a young Shaq, had a ton of potential, showed that he could be a pretty good player for a little bit and even went to a larger organization which was supposed to help him achieve greatness. After being washed up, you still hear rumors that teams want to give him another chance because of that long-gone potential. The problem with Curry and webOS is that both seemed bloated and eventually moved too slowly compared to the competition.
Nearly every single review of a webOS product will follow a similar theme: the software could be wonderful but the hardware lets it down. This was true with the original Palm Pre, Pre Plus, Pixi, Veer and the TouchPad. I’m sorry but the TouchPad has a dual-core Snapdragon processor and if that’s not enough power to provide a smooth and slick experience, then there’s something fundamentally wrong with the software and the way it has been optimized.
Meanwhile, Android is getting better by the day, Apple’s iOS 5 is adding a radically revamped notification system and Microsoft’s Windows Phone is taking an approach that hasn’t caught on with consumers but is definitely an innovative take on mobile computing. You could even argue that the QNX platform on the PlayBook is a ripoff of webOS but it’s done in a better and smoother way.
I understand why the webOS platform stalled, as Palm didn’t have the resources to evolve it at the speed it needed to and HP was handling the merger and a leadership and direction change while it was in its care. Yes, maybe with a few years and tens of millions of dollars of investment, webOS could land on a great product but that’s a lot of risk for something that has never succeeded. For all the buzz of the $99 TouchPad, that product will probably wind up costing HP more than $100 million in losses, so it’s definitely a failure.
Samsung already has its own bada platform which could be perfect for the entry-level markets, is doing really well with Android and is hedging its bets with Windows Phone 7. LG Electronics has shown no interest and will likely focus on Android with some Windows Phone on the side. The other major players (Apple, HTC, Motorola, Nokia) are accounted for too. Perhaps an up and comer like Amazon or ZTE could take a flyer to make webOS its own but if the owner of the platform doesn’t think it’s worth the cost of investment, why would an outside company think it’s worth more?
It’s natural to look back with rose-colored glasses, particularly because of the history of Palm’s contributions in the mobile revolution. It’s time to stop playing looking backwards and we all just need to let webOS die.