February 11, 2011

WebOS Comes to the Big Screen

If you didn't already know, I'm a huge fan of the WebOS mobile OS from Palm, now HP.  I wax evangelical about it every chance I get.  At long last, HP unveiled the future of WebOS devices.  With a few caveats, we like what we see. The Touchpad brings WebOS to a tablet device and the reaction of many in the tech world is that WebOS seems to be even better suited to the tablet than it is to the smartphone format.  The caveat? the announcement yesterday that the Touchpad will NOT feature a gesture area is a big dissapointment. Gestures are a MAJOR differentiating factor between WebOS and its competitors. This incredibly intuitive interaction with the OS is a primary reason users like WebOS. Eliminating it on the tablet in favor of an Ipad mimicking button is completely nonsensical. RIM's Playbook rips off WebOS on this front with both a card metaphor and a gesture area. HP's competitors see the value, they were the innovator here, I don't understand why they are giving this advantage away. Size of the tablet is no reason not to retain this feature. HP, reverse course on this and restore gestures to the tablet version of the OS. 

Also announced yesterday, the Pre 3

I like what I see in the Pre 3.  Basically, its what all us Pre users have been asking for: better build quality, more robust hardware to let WebOS really run and hardware acceleration so that the UI is fast and smooth.  The caveats:  There were no carrier announcements.  Because of the presence of Verizon and ATT in source code (since removed after being discovered) it seems a good bet they are getting it.  This is good, in that most of us believe WebOS needs a multi carrier launch to be successful.  However, as yet, there seems to be no mention of Sprint and thats where the bulk of Pre users are.  Many won't switch to another carrier because Sprint's service is attractively priced.  So thats going to be key for me.  This puppy needs to come to Sprint. Other issues include the  announcement of no OTA OR hardware based upgrades to 2.0 for the current, mostly Sprint user base. Thats a real disappointment for people who bought Pre's with the promise of upgrades to what is still a brand new OS platform.  HP has since indicated they hear us on this and are looking for a fix that would bring 2.0 to Pre minus and plus devices.  We'll see how it pans out.

With regard to both devices, the announcement that there would be no availability of the Pre 3 or Touchpad until "summer" was a major dissapointment. This makes the announcement of no updates to Pre 1s even more galling. If the new devices were going to be ready in a month, maybe even two, this might be acceptable, as we all need new hardware anyway. But a vague promise of summer could mean six months or more if the development schedule slips, an eternity for people with poorly built Pre 1s. And all the while, potential and current customers are exposed to the competition who will ship before then. HP CEO Apotheker recently boasted that announcements would be quickly followed by shipping products. The announced timetable flatly contradicts this.  Here's hoping they underpromise and over deliver on this front.

I like the Pre 3 and will get it if released on Sprint, but the certainty of that purchase diminishes the longer HP make me wait for it. HP - deliver these devices sooner than "summer".  The Touchpad looks to be great, but HP takes away what makes WebOS better by ditching gestures. Its a bad move and HP should restore that to the device. I'd even stomach some delay in getting it to market while they engineered that change. Without it, its not a sure thing I'll buy a Touchpad and HP remains subject to "me too" criticism that its just an HP branded Ipad. They need to keep and improve what makes HP WebOS different and superior.

Even with the above caveats, these two devices are going to rock.  If you are thinking about getting a smartphone, don't become part of the Iphone herd or the Android legions, come to WebOS.  Its the most intuitive, elegant mobile operating system out there and with HP behind it, its going to the next level.  HP CEO Apotheker recently summed up why WebOS is going to be among the top three smartphone platforms.

"Only HP can get the speed of innovation, the wow factor from the consumer side" and "harden it for the enterprise.”
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