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Insiders Call HP's WebOS Software Fatally Flawed 191

Hugh Pickens writes "Some of the people involved in creating WebOS, the HP TouchPad's core software, now say the product never had a fighting chance because it relied on WebKit, an open-source software engine used by browsers to display Web pages, that just didn't have the horsepower to run fast enough to be on par with the iPhone. 'Palm was ahead of its time in trying to build a phone software platform using Web technology, and we just weren't able to execute such an ambitious and breakthrough design,' says Paul Mercer, who oversaw the interface design of WebOS and recruited crucial members of the team. 'Perhaps it never could have been executed because the technology wasn't there yet.' Another problem was the difficulty in finding programmers who had a keen understanding of WebKit as Apple and Google snatched up most of the top talent including Matias Duarte, vice president of human interface and user experience for WebOS, who left for Google a month after HP's acquisition of Palm. 'When he left, the vacuum was just palpable. What you're seeing is frankly a bunch of fourth- and fifth-stringers jumping onto WebOS in the wake of Duarte's leaving.' CEO Meg Whitman has announced that HP will release the WebOS code for anyone to use, similar to Google's open-source strategy with Android, but some say WebKit will still leave WebOS underpowered relative to Apple's software."
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Insiders Call HP's WebOS Software Fatally Flawed

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  • Nonesense (Score:4, Interesting)

    by anton.karl ( 1843146 ) on Monday January 02, 2012 @09:03AM (#38562614) Homepage
    There are a number of reasons why the TouchPad failed, but the quality of WebOS is not one of them. WebOS is a rare exception of improvement in GUI design at the OS level these days and it works quite smoothly. The problems are things like the lack of quality software that runs on the platform. I couldn't care less about having thousands of apps for silly tasks but a tablet that doesn't even have decent support for reading PDFs is just obviously going to fail. The basic apps that come with the TouchPad just never reached a mature stage. As for the management aspect of things, I won't even go there.
  • by Stingray454 ( 1942828 ) on Monday January 02, 2012 @09:26AM (#38562708)
    How true. I was involved in a project to create a "rich multimedia application" for WebOS back just before they killed it. Some usage of hardware just made the entire thing a nightmare. Built in video playback, for example - Took 2+ seconds to load a short video clip, screen flickered while you did, video playback didn't care about device orientation, and the controls were limited to "play" and "stop" (no pause, no seeking, no looping and so on.. well you COULD loop a clip, if you didn't mind another 2 seconds stall/flicker when the video restarted). Similar issues surfaced on most other hardware interfacing we tried as well. Maybe it could have been fixed in later versions, but overall it just felt terribly unpolished. Good ideas, bad implementation.
  • Web Obsession (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 02, 2012 @09:29AM (#38562724)

    There seems to be an increasing obsession with using browser technology as *the* technology, and it sucks big time.

    The web started as a way of displaying text - and later text plus graphics - with a mechanism to like pages across machines; its that latter bit that is Tim Berners-Lee's brilliant insight. Unfortunately - and this clearly isn't TBL's fault, he'd have needed a crystal ball to have seen what was coming - people wanted to use the browser to ever more sophisticated stuff (essentially to become a means to run remote applications), and this got bolted on top of the HTML. In a sane world, the browser would have provided a set of widgets and the means to manipulate them (basically, a GUI library, but sandboxed) and would have exported an API to manipulate them, and HTML should have been an application layer on top to make text presentation easier. Instead, we have a system where the HTML is exposed via the DOM as the API, and that is what you manipulate. The result is the HTML/CSS/JS abortion that we fight with today.

    I work for a company (which is why I'm posting as AC) that is implementing what amounts to a desktop application (and which will be delivered to a relatively small number of specialist customers who will pay multiple thousands of dollars equivalent for licenses), implemented in Python using a well-known Python web toolkit, running under a Python web server, and displaying in a customised version of chromium. Plus, some custom compiled graphics stuff. And its a total pig to work with, you have all of the problems associated with a connection-less client-server, and all the extra problems of UI programming inside the browser.

    If this was the way HP went, then they deserver to fail and thank (insert deity of choice) they did, rather than yet another noxious system was foisted on the world.

  • Bad article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lennie ( 16154 ) on Monday January 02, 2012 @09:38AM (#38562760)

    I think the people that wrote the article didn't really understand the HP/Palm people they talk to.

    Web technologies will get a lot of a new API added in time, but to create the standards takes time, so Palm had to come up with them themselfs and it seems they could not get the right engineers (and standards relations) to add it to WebKit.

    I think the conclusion should be:

    WebOS is just to early.

    Currently the Mozilla Boot to Gecko is doing something similair but they are also working on making all these new APIs new standards.

  • by chrb ( 1083577 ) on Monday January 02, 2012 @10:14AM (#38562896)
    iPhone web apps [] do use webkit to render the UI though. Are web apps too slow to be usable as a result of this? Did users complain that WebOS was too slow? And if so, was it really slow because of webkit? This article [] clearly blames the hardware rather than the software, stating that WebOS itself ran twice as fast on iPad level hardware. And if WebOS was too slow to be usable, then how come everyone raved about it once they dropped the price? Very few people are so enthusiastic about platforms that are so "fatally flawed". Was it all just marketing hubris?
  • by Kludge ( 13653 ) on Monday January 02, 2012 @10:47AM (#38563038)

    I played around with a palm phone w/ webOS for a while. Its fatal flaw was not webkit, but that everything was web based. It assumed that you had unlimited wireless data. I could not even be boot up the phone without a cell data plan. It would not even use my wifi access point. The palm web site strongly recommended purchasing an unlimited data plan because it used so much data.
    Then all the carriers dropped or heavily restricted their unlimited data plans. Ouch.

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