webOS was first launched on the original Palm Pre back in 2009, taking over from the outdated Palm OS, but since then hasn’t exactly made great inroads into the rest of the market, and the latest figures suggest that Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 is already closing in on parity with webOS, which was obviously part of the recent takeover of Palm by HP.
It’s this takeover, however, which seems to have sparked webOS into life again, making the headlines and capturing the imagination of potential smartphone buyers. But what exactly is it that has injected this enthusiasm for webOS back into the market?
Well it’s simple: the HP TouchPad tablet. The TouchPad, in case you hadn’t heard, is HP/Palm’s tablet. But it’s more than that; it’s a signal of intent, and it’s given webOS a sense of direction that from the outside looking in, is the right direction. It was also the obvious direction, along with almost every other smartphone/pc manufacturer who are all descending on the tablet world.
What’s more, though, is that it’s given webOS a sense of structure, and it’s creating the ecosystem of devices, that remain in-sync, which is so desperate sought after by the consumer. Not forgetting of course, that the TouchPad might just well be the best looking tablet announced so far.
Along with the announcement of the TouchPad came a pair of new smartphones, too, the HP Pre 3 and the Veer, the latter being the smaller sibling. This is an interesting topic for debate as to which you would opt for in conjunction with your iPad, but the Veer is arriving first to snatch some of the early consumers on a presumable cheap deal and introduce them to webOS. Which is fair enough.
What I think is great about that, is the Veer is essentially being used as a marketing tool for the masses. And I think what’s got me excited more than anything else about webOS is the approach HP is taking to get it out there into the public eye. It’s an incredibly difficult, and unforgiving, market to break into without the publicity and marketing that iOS and Android devices are subject to these days, and HP is probably one of the only companies in a position to push a product so hard. It’s evident in the news that webOS is coming to PC’s at some point this year or next, that HP’s sole intention right now is to get webOS into the public domain, and get it recognised by non-geeks, who never heard of Palm, the PrÃ© or the Pixi in days gone by.
Obviously I’ve no idea how the implementation onto PC’s will work, and how they will go about it, but that is really besides the point. It doesn’t have to be super-functional or revolutionary to catch the eye of the millions who will buy a new HP PC next year, as they are the the single biggest PC vendor in the world right now, and shoving webOS onto each and every one of them is sure to do that.
It’s all about familiarity. That’s the answer. When you look at iOS, you’re almost immediately familiar with it, and if not then it only takes a minute to pick it up, it’s so intuitive. So what HP is desperately trying to do is to get the every day consumer to know about webOS, and then it can start eroding the market share of the dominant forces. It’s what Google and manufacturers did to get Android noticed – flood the market with devices – but for a closed ecosystem that might not be quite as easy, as one device is pretty much the same as the next.
However, we are hearing repeated rumours of where webOS will end up, and it’s looking as though smartphones, tablets, netbooks, PC’s and even printers will be subject to its magic. It has some amazing features that should not be ignored, and as an OS, its position and slice of the market truly does not reflect its quality. Certainly the biggest hurdle that HP faces though with webOS, is attracting the third party developer support that’s elusiveness has plagued webOS and strangled its growth right from the start.