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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.
Gestures to close running apps
Palm didn't settle for having live cards representing running apps. It also introduced the clever way to close background apps by swiping them up and off the screen. A simple gesture that is so intuitive it makes working with multiple apps easy.
This is now used in iOS7 and Windows 8, running apps are minimized to a card and swiped off the screen to close them.
Integrating social networks into the fabric of the OS
One of the most significant features in webOS introduced by Palm was so good it is now used in every major mobile platform. Palm called it Synergy, and it is the integration of social networks and major online services into the core of the OS.
When you get a call on your smartphone and see the caller's Facebook profile picture, you can thank webOS for that. Palm built into webOS the ability to integrate with Facebook, Twitter, and major online services. This integration linked the user's phone contacts with those of Facebook in particular, building a single pool of contact information.
This integration is now commonplace on every major mobile OS, including iOS, Windows Phone, and Android. This all started with Palm and webOS.