I'm an iOS user. I love the platform, and I like the stability it gives me when I work with it. But I also like other platforms for their innovation and attention to detail. And today, one of those platforms is being halted. HP announced that, in addition to looking to spin off their PC business, they are going to stop production on their WebOS devices. This announcement comes at a time when Google purchased Motorolla Moblility, the mobile phone arm of Motorolla, and Apple has enjoyed being the single largest hardware smartphone seller in the world. HP had pinned their hopes on the WebOS platform as a way to jump back into the mobile device market (think HP iPaq). But, it looks like they have decided it was not meant to be, and are now going to move it out.
So what does this mean to the mobile ecosystem? Apple is looking pretty good, having pretty much reinvented the smartphone with iOS. Google has saturated the market with a lot of devices of varying capabilities and releases, so they are doing well too. But I had a lot of hopes for WebOS. They get what mobile devices should be, and how they should work. Their idea of a tablet falls well in line with the same concepts that make iOS and Google successful, and it would have been nice to see them succeed and bring their level of innovation into the ring. In fact, it's thought that WebOS could become the darling of another maker with more persistance and deeper pockets, like say Samsung or HTC. It would stave off the tension of buying a competitor's OS (even if it's technically open source) to use on their platform, now that Google has Motorolla (or will have, after anti-trust investigations are done and all goes well for Google).
So WebOS may not be produced for a little bit, but I don't think it will ultimately die. The real strength that HP gave WebOS (and Palm before it) was the optimization of the platform to the hardware. Much like Apple's model, it allows for a much more fluid customer experience. Those that I have spoken to that had a WebOS device absolutely loved it. I would hope, should another company like HTC purchase WebOS, they take that into consideration and keep that same fidelity instead of trying to peddle out the OS to multiple platform developers.
But why invest in a platform that wasn't popular? Well, to be perfectly frank, the failure of WebOS wasn't really in the platform, but more in the way it was introduced. It was released before it was ready, and had no development for it beyond the inhouse apps. And that's to be expected from any new platform. So where do you go with it? Well, whoever buys WebOS (if anyone does) needs to invest a lot of development time into providing a strong ecosystem of apps for the users. If you don't have the app ecosystem, you won't get the users, or even the developers as it will be seen as a weak platform. And that ecosystem needs to be reliable and trustworthy, not riddled with malware, viruses, etc. There is a reason why Microsoft was so hated in the 90's, and it wasn't because they were everywhere. It was because viruses were so common, and they didn't seem to do much to protect themselves. On a computer, that's one thing, but on something as personal as a phone, you can't do that and expect to keep customers. So, HTC, if you are listening and are thinking of purchasing WebOS, keep that in mind.
Anyway, I hope something happens with WebOS that brings it back into the realm of a serious competitor for the smartphone market.