Ever since WebOS was introduced as the “saviour” of Palm in January 2009, it has been recognised as one of the leading mobile operating systems around. It is social and multi-tasking to the core, and was the main reason for HP buying Palm in mid-2010 for the corporation to use in its move into mobile phones and tablets.
Android has come a long long way since 2009 in ease of use, stability and everywhere else but many still believe WebOS to be a better alternative to iOS. That the OS isn’t being controlled to all intents and purposes by Google is another added bonus for a lot of hardware manufacturers who are finding it more and more difficult to differentiate their phones and tablets from their rivals.
People choose their phone OS for a variety of reasons, but ease of use, looks, and the apps on offer all come pretty high on the list of requirements. WebOS can rival or better its competitors on the first two, but with HP having no previous experience in the phone industry, and Palm lacking traction before its sale – WebOS is lacking apps. There is the old chicken and egg scenario that developers don’t want to spend the time and expense developing apps for a platform with few users, and platforms get little traction without an app ecosystem. As much as technologists and others would like to see a move to full HTML5 cross-platform apps as standard – we are not there yet.
To overcome the “app problem” faced by smaller platforms, HP has announced that it will license WebOS to competitors, and that is something a lot of its competitors are interested in. The first company rumoured to be well into negotiating is Samsung – a company that already manufactures the flagship Android devices in the Galaxy S (and now the Galaxy SII), alongside offering phones of similar specifications running Windows Phone 7 and its own proprietary Bada OS. Whether these negotiations are just Samsung attempting to cover all its bases is currently unclear, but I see no reason why Samsung wouldn’t embrace all platforms – giving consumers a choice of OS should allow Samsung to see growth from users with very varied smartphone requirements.