I can’t say that this should come as a surprise. I saw the writing on the wall months ago, but now my fears have been confirmed: HP is killing off its webOS development and products. The company that we all thought could save Palm’s last golden egg instead publicly crucified the platform, never giving it a chance to blossom into a real competitor. The death of webOS was drawn out and painful. Worse yet, it could have been prevented.
Let’s turn back the clock a year or so: HP buys Palm at the end of last year as the father of the PDA flounders under debt and its own inability to successfully market its new webOS platform. WebOS is a powerful, capable platform yearning for the hardware and developer support that it can truly leverage. HP vows to offer webOS that support by bringing the software to tablets, new smartphones, PCs and printers. Then comes February of this year, a day I affectionately called “The Resurrection of WebOS”, when HP shows off stellar new hardware offerings: the tiny Veer, the powerful new Pre 3, and the TouchPad tablet rocking webOS 3.0. Next in the timeline…. nothing. The same catastrophic mistake that Palm made with the original Pre and webOS repeated itself. HP waited far too long to release these new products, clearly demonstrating that these were not completed products but only targets. The Veer was released in mid-May to a lukewarm reception, 3 months after its initial announcement. The Veer was a cute, low-end smartphone, but in no way an appropriate choice as the flagship for the relaunching of this platform. Where was the Pre 3? Continue Reading
Among the many blunders of the original launch of Palm’s webOS and the Pre was the fact that the platform was unveiled at CES in 2009 and then released in June of that year. While there was tons of hype immediately after Palm’s announcement, by June most of that excitement had cooled off. Especially with the iPhone 3GS and iPhone OS 3.0, the Pre became relatively boring even before its launch. So with HP essentially relaunching webOS after buying Palm, we figured that HP had learned from Palm’s blunders and would quickly launch new handsets after their big event.
That was February 9th of this year, when the HP Veer, Pre 3, and TouchPad were announced. Now, more than 3 months later, HP is preparing to release the first of their phones. The Veer is HP’s budget webOS offering, sporting a 800Mhz Qualcomm Snapdragon and 2.6″ screen in a very small package. It’s a safe device to launch to test the waters of webOS to be sure, but it’s the wrong move. In the three months since HP’s webOS event, the mobile phone market has changed rapidly. Dual core phones like the Atrix and Galaxy S II have become the flagships of the mobile industry. 4G phones like the Thunderbolt and Droid Charge are now the must-have devices of this year. HP launching a budget phone as the first retry of webOS does not establish a good precedent for the platform. Where is the Pre 3?
Sigh, looks like webOS may fail yet again. Why can’t anyone figure out how to launch this platform the right way?
2009 was the gambit year for Palm. Failing with Palm OS, a legacy mobile OS that had become absolutely ancient, the company needed fresh blood. So early 2009 introduced us to the Palm Pre and webOS: a brand-spanking new mobile phone and a completely new mobile OS. They were absolutely fantastic. The Pre was stylish and powerful, sporting features like inductive charging way before the competition even thought of it. webOS was (and is) a multitasking monster with Synergy, an extremely expansive cloud syncing system. It seemed like Palm had risen like a phoenix, out of the ashes of Palm OS to become a company that could even take on Apple out of the gate. At least, that was the thought back when the phone and OS were announced. Palm sat on their asses until June for launch, around the time the equally powerful iPhone 3GS debuted. By that time the fervor had cooled off, plus the phone launched on Sprint and had the worst advertising this side of Sony’s 2006 PS3 ads.
Palm died in 2010. I earnestly believed they could make a comeback but that never came to pass. Instead, HP bought Palm and vowed to keep WebOS alive in their new mobile devices division. I was glad to see webOS get another chance. It was a mobile OS that I felt deserved to exist. So with HP at the helm, I figured things would be on the up for webOS. But for all of 2010: nothing, at least for us US customers. In Europe, consumers had access to the Pre 2 with a faster 1Ghz processor and webOS 2, which brought better multitasking, stronger universal search and Flash support. Still, we never got it and HP never made a big deal of it. Until now. Today HP unveiled 3 new devices that will change the way we think of webOS forever. Today, webOS gets a new lease of life and I’m extremely excited. webOS is now a viable player in the mobile space, and if HP woos developers to the platform, webOS could be an enduring monolith able to challenge iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7 in short time. Continue Reading
Well, this is a unexpected delight. Some readers will remember that a week or so ago I posted an editorial about the possible demise of Palm. While many called it quits for the mobile company, I personally thought they could rally for one more go. However, today’s news seems to show that Palm is going to be a bit more conservative and find someone cash-rich to cozy up to. HP, the world’s largest seller of PCs and printers, has announced that they will acquire Palm to the tune of $1.2 Billion. It’s a hefty sum for a company rich in IP and talent, though exhausted and starved for a lucky break. HP’s decision to buy Palm is a little surprising, since many were expecting a purchase by HTC or Lenovo. HP was on a short list of unlikelys but HP is a great company to buy the ailing handset maker. HP has a large brand name recognition in printers, computers, and now is moving into consumer electronics with a planned Slate PC to take on the iPad. Plus, their iPaq (originally developed by Compaq which was acquired by HP) was once an extremely popular mobile device that fought against Palm’s own PalmPilot for dominance.
HP has assured shareholders from both companies and prospective customers that it plans to greatly focus on building up WebOS as a strong platform. I’m personally glad to see this great mobile OS get another lease on life. HP looks to be continuing to support the Pre and Pixi smartphones as well as possibly adapting WebOS to be used in new cellphones and multimedia tablets as the company tries to push farther into that field. Seeing as how HP has been trying to get into the mobile space, but so far has been stuck using Windows 7 and Windows Mobile, having access to an established OS which they can now rebuild must be a boon to them. Fascinating stuff huh? More on this as it develops.
All across the internet, tech blogs and news agencies see the writing on the wall: Palm is going down. The company, once ubiquitous with mobile devices, has had another year of bad losses and major miscalculations. It’s a terrible shame, since we all thought 2009 was going to be the year of their resurgence. I was so positive about the new direction of Palm and their WebOS that I gave them a much coveted place in my annual Great Moments in Tech article. Yet, it seems not even WebOS and the uber-sexy Pré could save Palm from demise. Or could it? Everyone may be selling off Palm stock, jumping ship, and crying for someone to purchase up the beleaguered company, but I don’t think Palm is dead yet. They can come back if they play their cards (that’s a WebOS joke to anyone who gets it) right.
How did Palm get into this terrible mess? At CES 2009, they debuted their completely fresh new mobile operating system, WebOS. Completely built on web standards and built to multitask like a pro, it was a glorious departure from their aging and antiquated Palm OS. This new OS, paired to the super sexy and splendidly powerful Pre seemed like a match made in heaven. So what happened? A lot of it was timing. The Pre was announced in January but came out in June…. two weeks before Apple released the iPhone 3GS. By this point the excitement had faded and Apple stole the hype-train. Palm should have released the Pre quickly and seated itself as the premier smartphone vendor for at least a few months before Apple could retaliate. Also as a knock against Palm was their exclusivity with Sprint, the #4 carrier in the US. It limited their market share from the get go. Even though the Pre Plus has become available on Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T, none of those carriers are advertising it and are on to bigger and better phones now. Build quality on the Pre was also an issue, while the hardware was super sexy, it was flimsy. Again, this was improved with the Pre Plus, but the damage had been done. Speaking of advertising, Palm screwed the pooch on that one. Continue Reading