Six Clicks: Features introduced in webOS you are using today

Six Clicks: Features introduced in webOS you are using today

Summary: The webOS mobile platform introduced by Palm is no longer used on commercial products, but it introduced features so innovative that some are still in use by Apple, Microsoft, Google...

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  • Six Clicks: Features introduced in webOS still in use

    The year was 2009, and the room was packed with thousands of journalists to see the latest from Palm. The excitement was thick, something normally only experienced at an Apple launch event. Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein took the stage to unveil the Palm Pre with its innovative new OS, webOS.

    Sadly, the lifespan of webOS and the phones and tablet it powered was far too short. Palm was acquired by HP in short order, and the webOS hardware was soon gone from this world. 

    The webOS platform had innovation baked in at every level, and it's probably the best mobile OS to end up a commercial failure. The phones didn't sell well, and the TouchPad tablet released by HP after the acquisition was cancelled a mere 45 days after its release.

    It's easy to believe that webOS was not a good OS based on its short history, but it was built on features so innovative some are still in use today. This blast from the past highlights the major innovations introduced with webOS that are so good they have been adopted by every major player in the mobile space.

  • Apps as cards

    In webOS, the engineers at Palm introduced a new way to work with apps running on phones and tablets. They used a system that was a first where each running app was represented by a card that could show at a glance what was running on the webOS device at any given time.

    These cards weren't just static images as was common at the time. They could be dragged into any order, and most impressively they were live images. Apps displaying video or other information that was continually updated would still do so on the card when the app was pushed into the background by the user to do other things.

    This method has not disappeared with webOS. It has been adopted by Apple in iOS7, although the fluid webOS implementation was better. This is the graphical task manager in iOS invoked by clicking the Home button twice.

    It has also been used by BlackBerry on its Playbook tablet, in fact that OS looks an awful lot like webOS.

Topics: Mobility, Hewlett-Packard, Smartphones, Tablets

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17 comments
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  • HP mistakes with Palm/WebOS

    1. It gave up too soon with tablets and smartphones
    2. It priced the HP TouchPad too high (as did Microsoft later with its Surface tablets)

    I wonder if Hurd would have made these same mistakes if he was able to stay on as HP's CEO ...

    P.S. It made more sense for HP to acquire Palm than Microsoft acquiring Nokia's handset business.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Wasted opportunity

      HP bought Palm and did shockingly little with it. I almost think that it was bought to be killed.
      John L. Ries
      • I wonder at who's request

        Or was there another object held over HP's heads. Not that it was the first time.
        I hate trolls also
        • Thought about that...

          ...but in the interest of comity, I decided not to mention it.

          I still find it curious that back in the 1990s, you couldn't buy a personal computer preloaded with OS/2; even from IBM.
          John L. Ries
    • So nice at $99

      Bought a touchpad during the fire sale after they were discontinued. You are correct that they gave up too easily and priced too high I would still be using it as my primary tablet if it had any app ecosystem at all. I think that the ecosystem would have been there if they had just sold the first generation at or below cost without discontinuing them.

      How many Surface RT devices could Microsoft sell at $99 or $149? Maybe it would be worth it to them to take the hit and sell below cost. I would buy one.
      redhaven
    • Nope

      It made much more sense for MS to acquire Nokia than HP acquiring Palm. HP did nothing with Palm. MS has already been working with Nokia for some time and Nokia has a lot of experience and success making Windows Phones. There is already a small track record of success and a synergy.
      Maha888
      • Synergy

        HP got instant synergy when it acquired Palm as WebOS was developed by Palm and already used in its devices. Thus, there was no need for a "burning platform" memo and looking externally for a mobile OS. [Some believe that there was no need for the "burning platform" memo at Nokia as it had MeeGo which was used in the very well-received Nokia N9 smartphone.]

        The HP CEO after Hurd, Léo Apotheker, was a poor choice. And when Meg Whitman was brought on, it was, sadly, too late. The damage had been done.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • Léo Apotheker was a poor choice

          and yup, that about sums up a few years of HP
          one.m.davis
    • and the phones were just so damn small...

      let's not forget that.
      Tablazines
      • or maybe they weren't

        not everyone wants a phablet, not all iphone users want a bigger screen. I realise that you hear a lot of "bigger screen = better" shouting on these sites, but not everyone wants that.
        so I don't think that was the main issue, especially as most other phones had smaller screens back in 2009, (and in fact we probably would have laughed at the size of a number of current android flagships)
        one.m.davis
  • Where products go to die....

    The larger the company, the greater chance when an acquisition is made, it goes off to die.

    HP, IBM, Dell are all great examples of acquisitions that they let the sales teams either keep running as if a separate entity, but no direction or integration work done. Or sales teams are killed off, a "core," sales team takes over, and the product messaging gets lost.

    I like what LG is doing with WebOS in their TV's! Hopefully something exciting can be done with it. Who knows, in a few years, it may make its way back into phones from LG...
    unredeemed
  • I just loved webOS

    It makes me sad that it died off. If HP had steered Palm straight, or let Palm keep running (hopefully like Lenovo will do to Motorola), we could have a great third-place OS right now (or maybe second). However, I presume that if webOS was successful, there might not be Sailfish or Ubuntu Touch coming onto the scene.
    TheMimic12
  • Still miss my Pre 2

    Thanks, Leo, for dumping a promising system. #palmpilotpalmVhandspringCtreo123evolution.
    dalspartan
  • The Apps as cards thing is my favourite thing about the BB PlayBook

    ....which took it one step further than WebOS. The apps on PlayBook are still running while carded, and not tombstoned.

    Still you've got to give credit to HP/Palm for such incredible forward thinking. They really did a good job, and it is too bad HP gave up so easily.
    Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • Still ran on webOS, too

      And had a lot more functionality than on PB. Could be grouped, for instance.

      PB was a poor-man's webOS.
      x I'm tc
    • they weren't static in webOS

      but ugh
      you have raised one of the the big issues with iOS's terrible application of cards
      not only are they static, but they are also often wrong
      and as iOS CAN'T actually multitask (although it does a good job of getting close)
      often when you return to an app (via its card) the application actually has to start up from scratch again, and you lose where you were
      the very opposite of dynamic cards

      (I would like to add that I think there are some very good reasons to not allow a phone to multitask or do things in the background)
      (but I still think cards on iOS is a very poor copy of what webOS had)
      one.m.davis
  • Still Rockin WebOS

    I'm still using a Pre3 and still like it. I have no idea what phone I will get when I eventually replace this. I don't want to join the Apple cult and help employ forced child labor, Google is a disgusting advertising company who would sell my soul if they had a chance. That's already over 90% of the market. Possibly a blackberry if they are still around, but idk. I miss the days when everyone had a different phone and endless form factors. Maybe LG will surprise us and release new phone hardware running WebOS.
    bimmin