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Mar 8, 2015

The Curious Case of webOS

webOS LG Watchpalm-pre2

No, this is not one of those historical reviews of Palm’s history, nor an attempt to talk about web-based technologies or Brad Pitt’s movie. This one is about the truly amazing story of an operating system that managed to intrigue so many companies and individuals and still remain an enigma.

Our story begins with a popular company named Palm

I assume most of you are familiar with Palm. If not – it’s a company that pretty much created the first popular PDA’s. The ones that existed even before BlackBerry, Nokia, and the likes…
When people still used double cassette recorders to “download” music…

palm-logoPalm PalmOne    palm_treo_750_wm6palm-treo-pro-4-thumb

M505_Mini_Compo_Double_Cassette_Recorder

 

2009: The Birth of Palm’s webOS

Remember 2009? Blackberry (still named RIM) was the strongest player in the smartphones market but iPhone and Android already started to take over. In those days the term “iPhone Killer” was given to every high-end smartphone that was designed to compete with the growing success of Apple’s innovative smartphone.

Palm, in an attempt to rescue some of its’ assets and attractiveness as a leading mobile company has launched a beautiful new operating system called webOS. A complete re-write of the old PalmOS, built using pure web technologies (therefore the name: webOS) and extremely strong multi-tasking mechanism.

The operating system was considered to be a master piece (technologically speaking, not sales-wise) and introduced a lot of innovative concepts such as “cards” multi-tasking UI (later “borrowed” by both Microsoft and Apple in their mobile platforms) and ”synergy” (integration of all social networks and web-sources into business tools like calendar meetings, emails, and chats – something we all have today on our smartphones).

palm_webos_4501  Palm Pre
Together with the operating system, Palm also released a new smartphone called Palm Pre, followed by the Pixi and the Plus. Those smartphones, needless to say, were not a big success and Palm’s future didn’t look promising.

 

2010: The Disappearance of Palm

In April 2010, HP acquired Palm and WebOS was one of the key assets and motivation for the purchase.

Palm’s brand was still considered to be strong in the mobile space those years, mainly due to the company’s patents and history in the PDA’s market, but HP decided to drop it from both the operating system and the devices.

Palm was no more, but webOS remained.

In February 2011, HP announced the second version of WebOS as the universal platform for all its devices.
However, Palm’s older devices were not upgradable to this version despite a previous commitment by HP.

HP TouchPad mobilespoon

HP announced several new WebOS devices, including the HP Veer and HP Pre 3 smartphones, running WebOS 2.2, and the HP TouchPad, a tablet that soon after created one of the biggest mobile events in the history of tablets. In March 2011, HP even announced plans for a version of WebOS to run within Windows.

Needless to say – it did not work out...

 

2011: The First Death of webOS

In August 2011, HP surprisingly announced that it was interested in selling its Personal Systems Group, responsible for all of its consumer PC products including WebOS, and that WebOS device development and production lines will be stopped

In a surprising move, HP decided to reduce the price of the TouchPad to $99 and put it on a sale.
There was no other tablet those days so powerful in this price. TouchPad had built-in support for Flash, multi-tasking, and great UI – something even the iPad didn’t have back then.

HP TouchPad

TouchPad was sold out in just a few days and the buzz was huge.

 

2012: The Second Death of webOS

Another announcement by HP, and this time, turning webOS from an irrelevant operating system into an irrelevant open source operating system.
The sources were released to the world during 2012 and webOS unit at HP was renamed to “Gram”.
It seemed that no one is ever going to use or do anything with webOS. Palm’s legacy was about to disappear for good.

 

2013: The Rebirth of webOS

On 25 February 2013 LG Electronics acquired webOS from HP to enhance the company’s smart TV’s, replacing the NetCast platform. HP continued to hold the patents underlying webOS and some other assets such as the AppCatalog. Despite WebOS being used as an OS for smart TVs, LG has not ruled out the possibility of a WebOS smartphone, the original purpose of the OS.

webOS Smart TV MobilespoonLG webOS TV

 

2015: The Second Rebirth of webOS

Barcelona. MWC15. I’m in the LG booth trying to figure out how to use the new LG Watch Urbane LTE.
What happened to Android Wear?” I’m thinking to myself… “That’s not how it used to look… like, 2 weeks ago…

I’m performing a quick search on my iPhone and quickly find the shocking answer:

LG Watch Urbane is running webOS!

This is exciting because just like myself, there are plenty of others, technology geeks, waiting to see a comeback by this great operating system. To many of us, webOS was a huge potential that never took off.
Maybe now, with wearables and the internet of things – this lightweight platform could find a proper place in history.

The webOS-based smartwatch already holds a set of apps, activity tracking features, and is SIM enabled.

FullSizeRender IMG_0289 IMG_0286

Summary

So many generations of mobility in one little operating system: from the legendary Palm we all knew 15 years ago, all the way to modern smartphones, iPhone killers, tablets, open source, smart TV’s, and now wearables.

This is the amazing story of webOS, and I sure hope it’s not the last chapter. 



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