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...


 |  Image 6 of 7

  • Thumbnail 1
  • Thumbnail 2
  • Thumbnail 3
  • Thumbnail 4
  • Thumbnail 5
  • Thumbnail 6
  • Thumbnail 7
  • Swiping in from the bezel to facilitate operation

    HP introduced the ill-fated TouchPad tablet, and it extended the unique touch interface by using touch-sensitive bezels around the screen. This eliminated the need to include physical buttons. Users could invoke the unique 'apps as cards' interface by swiping up from the bottom bezel, among other functions.

    The concept of swiping in from the bezel is alive and well in Windows 8. Those using Microsoft's latest version of Windows on touch devices are familiar with invoking common system menus by swiping in from the four sides of the screen.

    When you swipe in from the side to slide a menu out for app operation, you can thank webOS. This functionality is common in all mobile OSes, especially Android.

  • Wireless device charging hits the mainstream

    The ability to charge gadgets without plugging them in wasn't introduced by Palm, but it's implementation of the option was a first. The Touchstone charger for the Palm Pre was elegantly designed and Palm Pre owners snapped them up in droves.

    The optional Touchstone charger was a small 'stone' that would charge the phone by simply placing it on the charger. The Touchstone was plugged into the wall and set on the desk, and the phone would charge wirelessly through the back cover of the phone.

    Wireless charging is now available through major OEMs, like Nokia for its phones.

    Palm was the first to integrate wireless charging with the OS. When the Palm Pre was set on the Touchstone to charge, the phone would automatically switch to speakerphone mode so calls could be made hands-free. This was carried onto the TouchPad, as HP produced a desk stand that would wirelessly charge the tablet. The OS could automatically switch to a dock mode and display desired information while sitting in the stand.

    Dock mode switching is now integrated into Android.


  • Linking webOS devices to add functionality

    Palm was responsible for most of the innovation covered in this collection, but HP introduced one that is still in use today. Given HP's short tenure with webOS, it's likely even this one was on the drawing board of Palm's engineers.

    HP included a unique function in the Palm Pre 3 and TouchPad never before seen. These two webOS devices could wirelessly sense when near each other to meld OS operation seamlessly.

    While using the TouchPad tablet, with the Palm Pre 3 phone nearby, calls and text messages would automatically appear on the tablet. The user didn't have to pick up the phone to deal with interruptions. They could see them on the tablet they were holding. This turned the two devices into a single communications solution, simply by having them close to one another.

    This is basically the same functionality seen today in the hot wearable segment, smartwatches in particular. When you see an incoming call or message on your watch, you can thank webOS for bringing that into play.


Topics: Mobility, Hewlett-Packard, Smartphones, Tablets

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • 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.
    • 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.
      • 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
    • and the phones were just so damn small...

      let's not forget that.
      • 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)
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Still miss my Pre 2

    Thanks, Leo, for dumping a promising system. #palmpilotpalmVhandspringCtreo123evolution.
  • 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.
    • 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)
  • 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.