Is WebOS Hosed?

Is WebOS Hosed?

Former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein – the guy who resurrected Palm – is leaving HP’s Palm unit (no longer called Palm, to boot). Taking over is Stephen DeWitt, HP’s US computer overlord. This isn’t good for webOS. In fact, It’s terrible.

When webOS was formally unveiled at CES in 2009, Rubinstein, along with Ed Colligan, Matias Duarte, and Sprint’s Dan Hesse all took the stage to show off a beautiful smartphone OS basically exploding with promise. But the apps never really came. And I think can count the number of updates my Pre received on a single hand. A year after it came out, I couldn’t look at my Pre and not want more.

Fast forward to today, and Palm is now part of HP. There’s the TouchPad (sigh). And the Veer (double sigh). Somewhere in Europe there’s a Pre 3. Nearly all the major figures associated with the initial development of webOS – the people who had the vision – are gone. Except for Rubinstein. And now he’s moving on to other, possibly greener, pastures helping to develop future HP computers. What does this mean for webOS, his company’s remaining legacy?

Letting DeWitt take the reigns likely means that the webOS group will be less about developing progressive smartphone ideas, and more about turning the platform into a profitable, bottom-line commodity. And HP has not been shy in mentioning that they’re contemplating whoring out the OS in its current form to basically every device that’ll harbour it. Smartphones! Tablets! PCs! (With Windows too!) Printers! Toasters! Clock radios! Why stop there? Ahem.

Point is, it’s getting harder and harder to believe we’ll see any great future breakthroughs from the little smartphone platform that could. Rubinstein and co took risks, big ones. They dared to make something different. It was good. So good you can see pieces of it in every other smartphone now. DeWitt was in charge of computer hardware for HP. They’ve produced some solid hardware over the last few years. But was there really an HP product that evoked a sense of awe from us, the consumers? HP even basically killed the one PC unit that was delivering crazy stuff, Voodoo.

That really bums me out. Because, truth be told, my two-year-old, technologically ancient Pre still feels more advanced than the best Android phones on the market today.