The decline, further decline and collapse of webOS

WebOS wasn't really a bad operating system; it just never really had a purpose.

Think of it like this: Microsoft's Windows has ubiquity, Apple's iOS has ease of use and brilliant integration with other Apple products, Google's Android is open-source and free to use, and Research in Motion's BlackBerry OS comes loaded with enterprise features. HP's webOS, on the other hand, never really had a compelling hook and only served as the last gasp of Palm, the company that was formerly famous for its pioneering Palm Pilot devices.

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In this quick timeline we'll go through the brief history of the webOS operating system, from the heights of irrelevance to the lows of oblivion.

January 2009: With much fanfare, Palm debuts its new Palm Pre smartphone at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that features a shiny new operating system known as webOS based on familiar Web standards such as CSS, XHTML and Javascript. webOS' initial big selling point is its multitasking capability that allows users to quickly flip between multiple applications on their smartphones without closing any of them down.

September 2009: WebOS and the Palm Pre start running into trouble just nine months after their public unveiling, as Verizon reportedly considers dropping its planned support for the Pre after disappointing initial sales. Verizon does in the end decide to support webOS-based devices by releasing the Palm Pre Plus on its network in January 2010.

March 2010: Palm's release on the Verizon network is significantly overshadowed by the success of the Android-based Motorola Droid that Verizon launched at the end of 2009. Then-Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein lamented at the time, "If we could have launched at Verizon prior to the Droid, I think we would have gotten the attention the Droid got."

April 2010: HP acquires Palm for $1.2 billion and announces that it will utilize webOS to unify future devices including smartphones, tablets and notebooks.

"We anticipate that with the webOS we'll be able to aggressively deploy an integrated platform that will allow HP to own the entire customer experience, to effectively nurture and grow the developer community, and provide a rich, valued experience for our customers," said Todd Bradley, the vice president of HP's Personal Systems Group, at the time.

February 2011: HP announces that its first webOS-based tablet, known as the HP TouchPad, will hit the market in the summer of 2011.

July 2011: The TouchPad hits the market to mixed reviews from critics and poor sales from the public at large.

August 2011: And just like that, less than two months after its first webOS tablet release, HP announces that it will discontinue making devices based on webOS while spinning off its PC business. So unless another company wants to spend money buying the rights to use a mobile operating system that has no real customer base, it looks like webOS will die as a mere infant. Rest in peace, Little-OS-That-Couldn't, rest in peace.

Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.

Tags Networkingwirelesshardware systemsoperating systemsPalmcsswebOSAppleGoogleconsumer electronicsMicrosoftsmartphonessoftwaretablets

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Brad Reed

Network World

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