Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 2nd Jan 2014 19:31 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

The Verge has an interesting story up detailing the various hardware and software prototypes that could have had a future hadn't HP botched pretty much every aspect of its Palm acquisition. Both in features as well as design, the next version of webOS, codenamed 'Eel', looked quite promising, and the hardware designs certainly stand out too.

Sadly, as I stated in my detailed history of Palm, webOS was, at its core, simply not a Palm product. As I wrote:

A cool UI doesn't hide the fact that it's slow and unresponsive. A cool UI doesn't hide the fact that the underlying system is unoptimised. A cool UI doesn't hide the fact that it sucks battery like a there's no tomorrow. A cool UI doesn't hide the fact that the hardware was of appallingly low quality.

A cool UI doesn't hide the fact that the operating system has absolutely nothing to do with what Palm is supposed to stand for.

WebOS probably looked like the bee's knees to someone used to the version of Android and iOS at the time, but having had a long history using PalmOS products, webOS was a total and utter letdown. WebOS was a badly sewn together set of compromises, unfinished parts and shortcuts - and it showed. From The Verge's article, I get the impression that Eel slapped on a new coat of paint and new user-facing features - but that the lower levels and core of the operating system were still very much the same unoptimised mess.

I'm definitely curious what LG's webOS TV is going to be like - it looks nice - but if it's anything like Palm's and HP's webOS products, it won't light any of my fires.

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webOS *was* the bee's knees
by chandler on Thu 2nd Jan 2014 21:31 UTC
chandler
Member since:
2006-08-29

I couldn't disagree more with your comments about webOS, and especially the implication that it was only attractive if you hadn't used Palm OS. I was a long time Palm OS user, from the Palm Pilot Pro through the Sony Clie TH-55. I even had a Fossil Wrist PDA. I used Palm OS as my primary mobile computing platform for years for everything to document writing (with an external keyboard) to programming. By the early smartphone era it was becoming obvious that Palm OS was long in the tooth, and would not make it to the next generation.

After using a G1 for a while, I picked up a Palm Pixi Plus to see what webOS was like and immediately fell in love. The way that it handled multitasking was - and is - far apart from the strange and confusing model that all other "mobile" operating systems have tried. The presence of a menu bar (ala classic Palm OS) gave apps a place to put advanced UI options without cluttering the UI or removing functionality. But what I especially appreciated is that underneath the hood it was real Linux, not a busybox-based locked down system like Android. Preware had a number of useful programs for webOS, including terminal emulators that I could use to run ssh. I didn't have many Palm OS apps left that I wanted to run, but Classic worked fine after a fashion.

As for appallingly low hardware quality, there were a number of issues with the Pre, but the Pixi was relatively immune to those. I loved having a real keyboard, especially for ssh use, and the swipe gestures below the display were simply brilliant. All in all I have no hardware complaints.

I'm not exactly a cell phone gamer. I can use almost any phone as long as I've got my email, a browser, a Twitter client, and SSH access. webOS delivered on all of those and the unique UI was and is still unmatched. For all of the fair complaints you can levy about performance and features, it delivered a unique user experience and a vision of mobile computing interfaces that is much more powerful and sophisticated than any of the current mobile OSes without sacrificing user friendliness.

The bottom line is: I still miss webOS ;)

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