Pre to Postmortem


Proving that the journalistic integrity of the Internet is still utterly alive and well in some corners, Chris Ziegler has a phenomenal report concerning the demise of Palm and webOS:

It’s easy to look back at Palm’s story arc from 1992 to 2012 and feel a sense of loss and sadness — this was a company that pioneered PDAs, popularized smartphones, and developed a revolutionary new platform on limited resources with an extraordinary concentration of industry talent before meeting its demise at the hands of HP. Staffers we spoke to took a more positive view, though, and one summed it up particularly well: “You ever see 24 Hour Party People? You know the scene at the end where they’re playing Happy Mondays’ Hallelujah and Tony Wilson is standing over The Hacienda and he’s like, ‘well, it’s all over — we have to shut down. Take the turntables, take the barstools, let a thousand Haciendas bloom’? Well, that’s what this is like. It’s that there are still people there, but a lot of people left, and they’re bringing the spirit with them. A thousand webOSes will bloom, I hope.”

Fascinating, entertaining, and important work.

webOS: The "Toxic Asset"

Brian X. Chen:

WebOS turned out to be something of a toxic asset. Several former Palm and H.P. employees involved in WebOS say that there was little hope for the software from the beginning, because the way it was built was so deeply flawed.

Despite my assertion of webOS's death in early December, I cannot shake my romantic longing for the underdog operating system. With design by Matias Duarte, focus on the web, and the forward thinking involved in the OS's general philosophy, webOS seemed the most legitimate competitor to Apple's iOS and Google's Android. And yet, it quickly fell by the wayside. Furthermore, as Chen highlights, the goodness of webOS seems limited to the concept, and that the platform has been stunted since its inception.

I long remained hopeful that the webOS team at HP was as optimistic as the rest of us, but Chen's report indicates otherwise. webOS even appears to have been underserved and rushed at Palm.

Pushing webOS into the open source realm sounded a death knell for the platform, but provided little in the way of closure. It was a drawn out, ugly affair, rather than a decisive, confidence-inducing maneuver.

But, oddly enough, this damning report of both Palm and HP's flawed approach to webOS has given me the closure that I needed. This report has affirmed any speculation regarding the death of the platform, and it has shown that its potential has been undercut since the outset.

Yes, perhaps there are 600 people still working on webOS, but the OS is unquestionably late. The forking of Android, rather than adopting nascent platforms like webOS, is set to continue, and webOS is undoubtedly set to fall into the recesses of the tech community's collective memory. In principle it could've been great, but in actuality, webOS is little more than a once attractive prospect that has been smothered by its various owners and developers.