WebOS - Past, present - it's influences, and what I want for the future of the platform

With WWDC being just a week ago, many have now seen what will be offer for iOS users current and future come Spring/fall (depending on your geographic location). We also a few weeks ago saw Google's I/O event, the superior android phone, the HTC One is out and so is the behemoth that is Samsung's Galaxy S4 which sold 10 million units in less than a month. The latest offering from Microsoft/Nokia, the Lumia 925 running Windows 8 has also been released, Blackberry is doing what it has done for a few years now, and continues to offer nothing of great worth, majority of its customers are those that have used blackberry for years, and the latest operating system and hardware aren't doing much, RIM (Research In Motion) who own blackberry earned a nickname, which is very appropriate - Research In Slow Motion. However in this ever changing market there have been platforms that have come and gone, the dead and buried Symbian OS, MeeGo, and the ever surviving WebOS platform, which despite being first released in 2009 on the original Palm Pre, then having Palm get bought by HP (for 1.2 Billion) who almost immediately put forth a new CEO in Leo Apotheker who single handily all but killed the platform due to his lack of care and just being an idiot (just a couple of brief reasons I refer to him as Leo Apocalypse in relation to WebOS). Very shortly after the 'failures' of the TouchPad and the Pre 3 in 2011, Apotheker stood down as CEO and Meg Whitman took over and made WebOS an Open Source platform, in which it is now referred to as Open WebOS, and just a couple of months ago was bought by LG for use in Smart TV's, which myself and other WebOS lovers are hoping will also expand into phones once again, however, HP did keep many of the patents which could prove to be interesting later down the track.

Now that you are up to speed on WebOS I figured with WWDC just past, and iOS 7 having been announced, I thought this would be a good time to talk about the influences that have come from WebOS which we see in present day devices, this is the WebOS multitasking since the original Pre in 2009:


via images.macworld.com

Now this style of multitasking has also made its way into Windows Phone, Android and most recently, iOS 7


via cdn.androidcentral.com


via apcmag.com


via files.tested.com

Hey don't those look familiar?

They all even operate the same way, you close them by swiping them away (in most cases up) and while I'm not 100% on the others, iOS literally has gone as far in ripping it off to use the live cards system, which again is a WebOS technology. I personally would like to see HP or LG (who ever owns the patents in this particular case) to sue Apple, their bottom line can certainly take it. And while where on the subject of things Apple copied from iOS let's look at their attempt at an integrated contacts list, in iOS 5 apple introduced twitter integration and in 6 Facebook integration, here's the thing, WebOS had that since 2009 and they had it in a much better way, you can link contacts, unlike in iOS where you were forced to manually copy and paste fields to get them into the same contact and prevent double ups if their Facebook name was different from what was in your contacts list, but along with that, WebOS also had something that no one else has even really attempted to copy yet, and that was inbox synergy, basically you use your accounts, your mobile number being one, which obliviously was your texting account, you had some (limited) options to add accounts such as AOL, Yahoo and Google Talk, later some Homebrewers (those who create 'homebrew' apps [uncertified apps that weren't in the catalogue]) created patches/plug-ins that would allow you to get more accounts into the inbox synergy including Facebook messages (which is still a big deal considering the Facebook experience on a Pre 3 looks the way it does)


via developer.palm.com

Let's also talk about the two main things that Google's android operating system has used to its advantage, which in many ways Apple still has trouble with, the first is notifications, one of the best things about the WebOS notifications, which I welcome in Android is that the notifications are not intrusive, they are minimalistic, they resize the screen and don't take a portion of your screen away (*cough cough* Apple). This is something that Android has done quite well, one of the other brilliant things about the WebOS notifications (I don't know if this is the case on android, but I know it is not the case on iOS) is that no matter what device you check a notification on, be another phone, laptop or tablet, you press the notification centre on the screen and the notifications go away without you ever having to open the app and double check the notification (This was a constant area of frustration for me when I was using an iPhone and an iPad). One of the other's was that WebOS was the first to institute over the air updates via wifi, and most Android hardware manufacturers have quite successfully implemented this (with the exception of Sony, trying an over the air update dam near bricked my father's phone, why he chooses Sony, I still don't know) and as for iOS? there were more problems with it then I care to talk about, especially if you happened to be using the iPhone 5.

One of the things that really hurt WebOS was poor marketing, there were some very weird adds, go to Youtube and look up "Palm Pre Commercial - Go with the flow" (or alternatively http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSMj5RoYdEI) and you will understand. Marketing is a hugely important part of selling a device, take a look at the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4. The One is a superior phone, but HTC just don't have the money to put on a marketing campaign like Samsung can (that being said, HTC have reportedly sold 5 million units of their One, which is a pretty dam respectable number). Samsung just have the money to put behind a massive ad campaign, and not every is like me and looks at multiple reviews, some just go with brand loyalty or with what they see on TV the most, but in all the reviews of the SGS4 from the major tech sites all said the same basic thing about how if you were going to get a high end Android phone, you would most likely end up with a One or a S4 and you would be better off with the One, to which I agree. It is a real shame that WebOS devices didn't get a better marketing campaign, they were really good devices, and let's be honest, Russell Brand didn't do much for the TouchPad (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGbeakalXa4)

On a side note, Brand did bring up a good point, all WebOS devices came with built in inductive charging through the touchstone, which is quite a nice thing, you had to buy the touchstone separately in most cases, but it was worth it. Also while charging you had the feature called exhibition which showed you the time, also had to ability to show you your agenda, photos or even Facebook. A nice feature especially as you can have the clock set to a black background with the time in white, which surprisingly enough doesn't disturb you with too much light while you sleep. So far the only others to really have built in inductive charging are some Windows phone's (mainly the later few revisions of the Lumia line) but that is all, 3rd party hardware manufactures make things to bring the ability to do it on other devices, but no one else has really done it at an OEM level.

I am excited for the Open WebOS project, there is a Linux build for desktops that you can play with and put forward contributions to the community, which I am going to start playing with very soon. But I am more excited for what might come next year if we are lucky - and that is another smart phone running WebOS and maybe even a new tablet - as much as I love my Pre 3, it is a 2011 phone. I would really like to see LG really use WebOS to its full potential and bring it back into the mobile race. John "Ruby" Rubinstein said it best very recently "HP wasted WebOS" and I would like to see LG actually make something of the platform, put some R&D into it, develop it and put it on some really good hardware, keep all the things that made it good, and bring it into now. Maybe I'm one of very few, maybe there are many, I would like to see what could happen if LG actually tried, and I'm serious in saying this - if LG actually made a device with good hardware and kept things like the inductive charging, and didn't screw up what made WebOS great such as the multitasking, synergy and notifications I would buy a LG phone, something I wouldn't do the way things are now. But that is me, that is my hopes, the next little while in mobile will be very interesting and I would like to see what will happen, I most especially would like to see a future with WebOS in it.

Sorry if this was in the wrong forum, the WebOS one is non-existent, any questions, comments, or things that I didn't get 100% let me know, I'm very open to feed back :)