It’s become fairly clear that HP is not webOS’ savior. It’s also unlikely that webOS can come back from the dead for the second time. But it makes me sad, since webOS and its devices hit a sweet spot that no one managed to exploit.
The currently winning smartphone platforms are the gated and guarded community of iOS, and the wild-west of Android. Palm/HP had the vertical integration of Apple with the openness of Google. Maybe in today’s polarized society, the middle has no appeal. But don’t think that when I say “middle” I mean not as good as either extreme — it’s more like the best of both worlds.
Here are some of my favorite features of webOS:
- Fantastic muti-tasking that no one else has yet matched.
- A UI that is is richer than iOS and more beautiful than Android.
- Over-the-air activation/updates/etc. Attaching it to a PC is never required.
- Unobtrusive notifications that can be ignored without being lost.
- Merging all of your contacts/calendars from wherever they happen to live.
- Acceptance that Flash is still a significant web technology.
- No jailbreaking required – but rather a completely sanctioned developer mode that gives you root access to the device.
- HTML 5 application development as a first class citizen.
- C++ application development for gaming, etc.
- A cloud-based IDE allowing app development in a browser.
- It is Linux, so skills are transferable.
- Inductive charging, so you don’t have to plug in cords — just drop it on the charger (OK, technically a hardware feature rather than webOS per se, but still awesome).
I haven’t developed for Android, but I like Java, so it could be a good experience. But the Android ecosystem seems like total chaos.
I did do some preliminary investigation into developing a video-centric application for Android, but got stuck when trying to figure out what video decoder support exists for the platform. Sure, there’s something that says H.264 is supported, but at what level and profile? Those are kind of critical to know, but the information just isn’t available. I guess Google just left it up to the device manufacturers to do what they wanted, which means trying to figure it out for every device. Compare that to the webOS information on video formats.
So I find myself in an unfortunate situation, hanging on to an aging phone and not sure what I’d do if I accidentally dropped it on the sidewalk tomorrow. Maybe, like I did the last time Palm imploded (with Palm OS), I’d have to give Windows a try, and hope that it isn’t the soul-less experience it was last time.