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webOS is back from the dead

The strange saga of webOS has taken another wild turn with South Korean electronics giant LG Electronics Inc. (KSC:066570) purchasing the operating system for an undisclosed price from Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ).  LG says it does not plan to use the operating system in smartphones, but rather intends it to form the backbone of its Smart TV offerings.

I. A Troubled History

For a time many smartphone fans consider webOS a potential top contender, when Palm first unveiled it in January 2009.  The successor to Palm OS, webOS tapped Palm's vast experience in the mobile industry it helped create, with unique features like swipe multi-tasking, Synergy (a service merging info from multiple email accounts, etc.), a complex notifications system and more.

But Palm's mobile efforts stalled under a sluggish hardware release pace and poor marketing.  In April 2010 HP scooped up Palm for what seemed like a bargain, and many hoped that would be the start of a turnaround for the beloved, but troubled OS.

Instead, things got worse, with HP driving sales into the ground.  Still, when HP launched webOS printers and the first webOS tablet -- the TouchPad -- some hoped that the situation could improve.  Instead HP decided to pull the plug on the troubled experiment, firing most of the webOS staff and clearancing off the remaining hardware.

webOS family
HP decision to kill webOS sunk earnings. [Image Source: All About webOS]
New executive Meg Whitman would eventually agree to open source key parts of webOS in a move that pleased fans.  But she always stated she wanted to sell the platform if the right buyer came along.

II. LG -- WebOS is for TVs Not Phones

That buyer appears to be LG.  Skott Ahn, president and chief technology officer of LG Electronics states, "It creates a new path for LG to offer an intuitive user experience and Internet services across a range of consumer electronics devices."

LG's webOS team will constitute the webOS/Palm offices in San Jose, Calif. and Chicago, Ill. that HP had held onto.  The core team, though, will be located at the new LG Silicon Valley Lab, with its Sunnyvale, Calif. and San Francisco, Calif. locations.

It is unclear how many veterans LG will be able to hang onto.  Reportedly, a number of employees jumped ship when the decision to use webOS to move towards smart televisions was announced.

Palm RIP
WebOS is back from the dead.

The team will continue to support HP and the former Palm's various webOS products, so the team will hang on to some of its traditional phone responsibilities.  But LG made it clear that it is firmly committed to Android on the phone/tablet front, and will not be considering webOS for mobile devices.

Still the decision is a blow to Google Inc. (GOOG) who was hoping to woo LG, one of the world's top TV makers, to use Android in its Smart TVs.

At first blush WebOS on a TV seems a questionable proposition.  However, the OS did lend itself well to other embedded environments -- namely HP's smart printers.  So perhaps with some TLC webOS may live again in a very different form.

Source: CNET

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By tviceman on 2/25/2013 11:27:51 AM , Rating: 5
As an owner of an ipod touch, Palm Pre, and now Nexus 7, I can say without a doubt that webOS was the most user friendly and intuitive operating system among the three. It's a real shame it's now the red-headed foster child being passed around from family to family because no one knew how to support and build off it.

RE: Wow
By Chadder007 on 2/25/2013 11:52:10 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed. I'd rather see this still on a tablet instead of a TV though.
Maybe LG will bring out a tablet?

RE: Wow
By wyrmslair on 2/25/2013 2:48:00 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I'm on a Touchpad as I write this. It will be interesting to see what this does to/for my orphaned tablet. Who knows...

RE: Wow
By jamawass on 2/25/2013 12:16:17 PM , Rating: 3
Just moved from webOS HP Pre 3 to iphone 5 and can't agree more. WebOS core smartphone functions like notifications, email, messaging, multitasking and it's Synergy are unmatched. However I must say I'm loving iOS' app paradise. At the end of the day in this era of smartphones apps have triumphed over user interface. RIP webOS maybe you'll be resurrected in the mobile space one day.

RE: Wow
By Flunk on 2/25/2013 12:45:34 PM , Rating: 2
You might want to try Windows Phone. It's not exactly the same but it's the closest platform that still exists. Emphasis on simplicity and getting things done over all.

RE: Wow
By Jeffk464 on 2/25/13, Rating: 0
RE: Wow
By kleinma on 2/25/2013 1:28:40 PM , Rating: 2
That is only because consumers are what they monitize, not products. It makes sense to feed the live stock well before the slaughter.

RE: Wow
By Jeffk464 on 2/25/13, Rating: 0
RE: Wow
By T2k on 2/25/2013 6:47:44 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, right - it's worse than WebOS and has almost the same amount of apps... great call to replace iOS, uhh... not.

RE: Wow
By retrospooty on 2/25/2013 3:56:45 PM , Rating: 3
"webOS was the most user friendly and intuitive operating system among the three"

Absolutely... WebOS was never polished, and never had any decent hardware paired with it and it still shined. My dream phone and tablets would be running a newer polished version of Web OS with Jelly Bean like speed improvements so its "snappy" and todays high end Android spec'd hardware.

RE: Wow
By piroroadkill on 2/26/2013 4:40:36 AM , Rating: 2
Yup. WebOS had a tremendous amount of promise, and was intuitive and clean.

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