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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.