Why WebOS Failed

By  |  Monday, January 2, 2012 at 2:05 am

From the start, lot of people (me included) loved a lot of things about WebOS, the mobile operating system that debuted on Palm’s Pre smartphone in 2009. We thought it had a shot at being serious competition for Apple–or at least we hoped it might. But my friend Brian X. Chen of The New York Times has a smart piece that makes the case that WebOS was doomed to disappoint, because its technical underpinnings and use of Web technologies made for a slow and generally disappointing experience:

“Palm was ahead of its time in trying to build a phone software platform using Web technology, and we just weren’t able to execute such an ambitious and breakthrough design,” said Paul Mercer, former senior director of software at Palm, who oversaw the interface design of WebOS and recruited crucial members of the team. “Perhaps it never could have been executed because the technology wasn’t there yet.”

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5 Comments For This Post

  1. @codyfoss Says:

    The big problem with Palm/HP was always the hardware. A nice looking, adequately powered, and well built phone would've provided them with the sales (and revenue) needed to overcome the "architecture flaws".

  2. Tom Ross Says:

    No, it’s what that guy said. Palm had fallen behind and tried to take a shortcut to OS development by using web technologies. Their hardware was always faster than the contemporary iPhone.

  3. Johnny Says:

    I disagree about the "adequately powered" part, at least. The original Pre had the same hardware specs as the original Droid. And specs-wise, the TouchPad was class-competitive with other tablets when it was released. The problem was that webOS was never optimized for the hardware. Even then, the lowly Pre Plus could multitask like a champ.

    While not as swift as iOS, the performance of webOS certainly was never a deal-breaker for me…I still consider webOS to have the best interface of any mobile OS, and I'm glad I got my TouchPad when I did.

    And whenever my HTC Evo stutters or drags, I wonder what good all of this powerful hardware is really doing me…

  4. Larry Newman Says:

    I agree with CodyFoss and am still hoping to hold a WebOS powered device in my hand that carries the H/W specs and build quality to rival the best devices on the market today. If I could FrankenPhone it into my HTC EVO hardware I'd do it in a heartbeat.

  5. Gerry Madrigal Says:

    The reason why webOS failed from the beginning was because PALM wanted to charge royalties for an operating system that was in plain development. webOS store was in development, but there were no devices on the market to publish new applications. Android devices were already starting to use touch screens while the Pre was still in that keyboard fashion that made screens very small. Let's see how Round 2 goes for webOS now that it has become an open source.