WebOS could be a Contender

WebOS could be a Contender

Summary: After today's announcements from HP about its webOS devices, I'm beginning to think the Linux-based webOS may yet be a contender in the smartphone and tablet space.

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I liked what I've seen of HP's Linux-based webOS. Still I did not think, given Apple and Android's leading in cutting edge smartphones and tablets, that webOS had much of a shot. Maybe I was wrong. I'm not the only doubter who after HP's latest webOS presentation now thinks that HP's webOS devices may yet find a place in the red-hot smartphone and tablet markets.

The devices, including the tiny HP Veer smartphone; the Pre 3 with its HD video recording and powered by a 1.4GHz Qualcomm CPU, and the 9.7-inch TouchPad with its Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-CPU APQ8060 1.2-GHz processor and 16 to 32GBs of storage all sounded and looked great at HP's great webOS device unveiling party.

What I found most interesting though was that HP is planning on taking webOS 3.0 to laptops and desktops as well. What's this!? HP wants to get into the Linux-based desktop operating system business!? As my buddy from the Washington Post, Rob Pegoraro put it, "'We're going to bring webOS to PCs'" almost two hours into a keynote raises the bar on burying the lede."

I wonder what Microsoft thinks about one of their more faithful partners going into direct competition with them on the desktop? Not much I'll bet you. My ZDNet compadre Sam Diaz thinks HP's move will send "shockwaves through some glass offices" in Redmond. I think it may shatter some of them.

It was annoying to Microsoft when Dell decided to start shipping Ubuntu Linux, but for HP to not only start shipping a Linux desktop, but a house-brand Linux of its very own? This is not news that Microsoft wants to hear.

But, while all this new webOS gear sure looks nifty and neat, I'd sure like to know a lot more about such little things as price, battery life, and availability. I'd also like to know a lot more about webOS 3.0, its application programming interface (API), and its software development kit (SDK).

Sure webOS' built-in suite of applications, such as the HP Synergy unified communications app. Suite that keeps email, instant messaging, contacts, calendar, videos and video calling looks better than ever, but how does an indy developer do that kind of stuff?

Yes, webOS' Mojo Framework and the Plug-in Development Kit (PDK) enable developers to create Web-based applications using JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), HTML and the WebKit open-source, Web-browser engine. The PDK, which enables the use of C and C++, can be used to port applications from other platforms, such as the iPad, to webOS devices. But, dig as I could through the HP press materials and developer Web sites, I couldn't find updates to the next generation of the operating system or about its programming aspects.

In time, HP will deliver all that, and let's say I develop a killer app. how am I going to get it to the webOS users? If it were an iPad app, I'd start jumping through the Apple iTunes App Store hoops or, far more easily, getting his or her program onto the Google Android Market. But, how do I go about easily reaching webOS customers? Good question, HP doesn't seem to have a good answer: Not yet anyway.

Which is why, at the end of the day, while I think webOS could be a contender; I don't say that it's going to be one. HP, behind all the flash and glitter, has a lot of important questions yet to answer both for consumers-price, battery life, ship dates-and for developers--an operating system refresh, SDKs, and APIs.

Topics: Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Laptops, Linux, Mobility, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Tablets

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35 comments
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  • RE: WebOS could be a Contender

    I for one am very much looking forward to the new HP TouchPad tablet and WebOS 3.0 phones. My 2 year old daughter can navigate and use my Palm Pre like a pro. I think that says a lot about the ease and usability of the WebOS interface. Also, with it being a web based OS, I think it is very easy to develop and port apps as shown by the thriving home brew community. Let's hope HP can give Apple and Android a run for their money in the tablet market. The defining factor will be if someone can get Microsoft Office (specifically OneNote) running in WebOS.

    As for going onto the desktop, I just don't see it. Microsoft will continue to reign supreme in the corporate environment for the foreseeable future. The only area I see it competing is in the same market with Chrome OS: netbooks and consumer-grade laptops.
    JPatrickF
    • Agree; good phrasing from Steven about WebOS being in "could be" state ...

      @JPatrickF: ... rather than **being** contender.

      For iPad, there are more than 60000 *tablet* applications even now. For WebOS and Android -- near to zero.

      <b>HP tablet is just an iPad clone with "trade dress" infringement</b> (see definition) and no software or actual developer platform to build it.
      DDERSSS
      • RE: WebOS could be a Contender

        @denisrs
        well, both webos and android are built on top of Linux. Have you checked the numbers of apps already written for Linux? Not counting the java apps which can run platform independent. It won't take much to package them, for free, for the webos "desktop" environment. Just in the ubuntu repos alone there's something like 30,000 pieces of software. The debian repos aren't far behind. A full download of the repos is something like 53 CDs worth of data. This is just what the free software community has come up with. Add potential ports of apple apps by third party developers (which shouldn't be too difficult given the genetic similarity with osx), and I don't think apps will be an issue.
        teddybairs1
      • RE: WebOS could be a Contender

        @denisrs You can't call "trade dress" infringement on a form factor. You don't see Dell and HP going at it about having silver/gray side panels with black face plates on their desktop PCs. All tablets are going to look similar in size and shape, and black gloss is the popular color for the external cases at this point. Apple tends to like white anyways.<br><br>As for the app catalogs, my Pre has all the apps I could ever need and if there is something I want, it is so easy to program for I could probably write an app to do what I need if I spent a little time with it. The home brew community is huge for WebOS. No walled garden either, you don't have to "jail break" to load the Preware app or even access the developer mode. Most legacy Palm apps still work in WebOS too. Also, as teddybairs pointed out, it is still Linux at the core, so a lot of Linux apps run fine on it or can be ported easily. Same for iOS apps, they can be ported rather quickly, so I just don't see app availability as a problem. On the other hand, marketing these tablets and getting non-techie people to understand the advantages and where to get apps outside of the default catalog is going to be the problem (and that is where I think HP will struggle).<br><br>What I see as great advantages are the Just Type and Synergy applications (not to mention true multitasking). That along with one of the only interfaces that is really using the "throw" technology and tap-to-share... I could easily see HP use this to allow seamless sharing of applications between devices that have the same Palm profile. They would just need to utilize vectors and proximity to allow you to "throw" your app from one device to another. Imagine walking into a meeting, opening a presentation on your phone or tablet, and simply "throwing" it up onto a digital touch screen or even just tapping the phone against the screen to get it there. Or perhaps tapping your phone against the side of your monitor at the office to instantly transfer the document your are working on to your phone. I think it will get there.
        JPatrickF
  • F*** me

    16 to 32GBs of RAM, per the article. That's more than my desktop.

    What is this @#$%er going to cost with that much RAM?

    (I know, I know...you meant storage space)
    samalie
    • RE: WebOS could be a Contender

      @samalie I think it refers to the storage RAM not the CPU processing RAM.
      iamcjbon@...
      • Storage is NOT RAM, they just made a simple mistake, enough already.

        NT.
        DonnieBoy
  • It is great to have more competition, to keep the innovation going non-stop

    in the mobile space. But, the bomb shell that they will also sell full PCs with WebOS is quite the deal.
    DonnieBoy
    • Only if someone buys it.

      @DonnieBoy, you do remember that Linux only on netbooks was quite the deal.

      That's true. It was quite the deal for MS, agreed?
      John Zern
      • You conveniently ignore the success of iPad / iPhone / Android, all Unix

        based OSes, that have taken the mobile world by storm. So, sure, there was a time when MS could lower the price of XP to zero to eliminate the Linux competition on netbooks. But, now we have HP, Apple, Google all investing heavily in Unix based operating systems, at the same time that Microsoft has failed miserably in phones and tablets.
        DonnieBoy
      • RE: WebOS could be a Contender

        @John Zern Hardly, it was a nightmare for Microsoft, they wanted to bury XP and move on, the "Linux Netbook" meant they couldn't do that - newer versions of Windows didn't run well enough on those machines. Microsoft had no choice but to keep XP around, and allow OEMs to sell systems that Microsoft know cannot be upgraded past XP, meaning those same customers (who let's face it are very price sensitive) will need a new machine to stay in Microsoft's ecosystem. Just because we didn't see vast sales of Linux systems doesn't mean this didn't hurt Microsoft.
        jeremychappell
  • RE: WebOS could be a Contender

    Two questions:

    1) Is WebOS and HP's vision cloud-based, so that the phone, TouchPad, printer, and Desktop PC all interact?

    2) Why is it so long between unveiling and availability?
    dalspartan
    • RE: WebOS could be a Contender

      @dalspartan

      One reason for the delay might be to get some third-party apps ported from iPhone/Android before the devices actually go on sale.
      WilErz
  • RE: WebOS could be a Contender

    You said that HP doesn't have a good way to get apps to WebOS customers. However, Palm Pre owners (like me) are aware that there are MANY applications available for WebOS right now in the Apps Catalog (enough to stop me from wanting the Verizon iPhone).

    You can see some of the apps here: http://www.palm.com/us/products/software/mobile-applications.html There are also many "homebrew" apps available for those that don't want to go through HP's App Catalog.

    WebOS is a great operating system: stable, intuitive, and quick. It *could* have been what saved Palm, but they screwed up the marketing, pricing, etc. Hopefully, HP won't make the same mistakes.
    dickdono
    • RE: WebOS could be a Contender

      @dickdono Maybe, but I think they didn't produce very good hardware either. The Pre looks fantastic in press shots. The reality is quite a shock, it feels flimsy, and too often the slider mechanism is wobbly.

      HP make solid kit. Their software is often the weak part. So the prospect of webOS running on well made solid hardware is a good one. Essentially this is true synergy; Palm had great software, but lacked a little in their hardware execution, HP have solid hardware, but their software is very poor.

      The problem is this is a very late play into a fast maturing market, and extending up into PCs even more so. The number of apps is a huge problem, but having seen webOS it is a very likeable system. I think they have a FAR better shot to anyone else.
      jeremychappell
    • RE: WebOS could be a Contender

      @dickdono <br><br>Why should we have to install from the web anyway? In the good old days of PalmOS, you could download an app, or even buy it at an actual brick-and-mortar store, and install it from your hard disk. You could exchange files *LOCALLY*, without ever having to touch the internet. Somehow, this cloud-centric attitude seems a major step *backwards*
      jelabarre
  • using the App Store

    WebOS already has an App store. That's how they'll get the apps out!
    siobhanellis@...
  • Mr. Vaughan-Nichols, as I know you are biased

    against Microsoft, it is obvious you are overstating the implications, as you are here to generate replies, so you give the bait.

    As someone mentioned before, you do realize that right after the conference, representaives from HP most likely phoned Microsoft to disregard what was said and to "please continue to ship us Windows licenses", or something to that effect.
    Tim Cook
    • That was close Spock, but the sentiment is right

      @Mister Spock

      I thinks it's just his thought process:
      "Linux at Dell!! MS is dead!" ("Darn, I was wrong!")
      "Linux at HP!! MS is dead!" ("What? I was wrong?")
      "Linux on notbooks!! MS is dead!" ("Shoot, I was wrong again?")
      "ChromeOS! They'll eat it up! MS is dead!" (What?, Not again.")
      Now it's "WebOS at HP! MS is dead!"

      At this rate they'll be giving Dana his old job back :)
      John Zern
      • RE: WebOS could be a Contender

        @John Zern
        Well said. :-)
        Ram U