By Adam Doud | March 6, 2013 7:00 AM
I woke up one morning last week having spent two short but lovely hours snuggling with sugarplums. I headed downstairs to the computer, fired up the twitters and had a bucket of cold water thrown over my head. Not literally, but it had the same effect.
Remember the context here. This is all happening in the middle of a flurry of other news flying out of Barcelona and suddenly, LG owns webOS? Alrighty. So we took a few more cautious steps forward. Long story short, LG hasn’t bought ALL of webOS. They’ve just bought a little bit of it – people, core pieces of the OS, etc. and licensed other bits – most notably the patents. This caused me to send out the following tweet –
Once on a back road in deep rural Illinois, I came across a big box of a dozen pig corpses. That made more sense to me than this hp/lg orgy.
Of course, once things settled down, I took a step back and realized that this didn’t even rank in the top ten of absurd moments in webOS history and I rolled with it.
Bear in mind, I got my start in webOS. I first started to take notice of modern smartphones watching Ruby take the stage at CES 2009. I’ve stuck with webOS through thick and thin. I’ve defended it. I’ve led the charge for it. I’ve said some of the most absurd and stupid things I’ve ever said in my life because of webOS. I am the very definition of a “webOS Fanboy”.
There are two types of webOS fanboys out there. There’s folks like me who are perpetual pessimists, always waiting for the other shoe to drop and knowing, without fail that that shoe will land on our heads. Then, there are webOS fanboys for whom hope springs eternal and good things are just around that next corner. No, not that next corner, the other next corner. So what does this means for the fanboys? I’ll try to give you both perspectives, while at the same time maintaining a shade of reality.
But What Are You REALLY Gonna Do With It?
Ostensibly, LG picked up the webOS perk package to run their new line of smart TVs. At the time, they also mentioned the possibility of extending webOS to include a wider variety of smart devices. Please note, at no time did they ever say the word “phones”. But, “devices” means “phones” right? Well…
It’s true LG makes phones. In fact, these days, they make phones that are in relatively high demand. Can you say “Nexus 4?” And, it’s also true that LG owns or leases enough of webOS to put it on phones. But, let’s not hold our breath.
It has been said that new products in development can be made fast, good, and cheap, but you only get to pick two. Fast and good, but not cheap. Fast and cheap, but not good. You get the idea. LG has been reportedly working on a webOS-powered TV since last October – that’s 5 months for those of you without calendars – and they’re not talking about any kind of product announcement until CES 2014. That’s over a year in development. Plus if webOS history is any indication, a CES announcement means a June release. So, conservatively, were looking at 18 months of development on a TV platform. This doesn’t even account for something that the market says needs to be small, slim and long lasting, like a phone or tablet.
Root For The Little Guy
Does that mean it’ll never happen? Of course not. This year’s MWC has brought forth a gaggle of up and coming operating systems – FirefoxOS, Sailfish, and Ubuntu. All of them think they can make a dent in the market. If I were a webOS fanboy, I would be rooting HARD for one of those platforms to gain a foothold in the market space. Because, if one of them can make it, why not webOS? Firefox, Ubuntu, and even Sailfish all have tiny, established fan bases to draw from – so does webOS.
With Nokia dominating the Windows Phone marketplace (what Windows Phone marketplace there is to dominate anyway) and Samsung making other Android OEM’s their prison girlfriends, maybe LG will find itself backed into a corner. If LG can look out and see this other “Indie” mobile OS ruling the school, maybe then they will see that perhaps a small OS with a passionate fan base can make some good things happen. Unfortunately, then and only then would they move forward with trying to make this work. Remember the eighteen months I mentioned before?
Eighteen months to develop a new phone. Eighteen months to work out webOS’s many remaining
bugs idiosyncrasies that make it a frustrating unique experience. Eighteen months to find just the right marketing firm. Eighteen months to get call up Netflix and get them to build a freakin’ app already.
Eighteen months after products already in the pipline have failed to garner more than a fraction of Samsung’s Android pie. Eighteen months after Sailfish, FirefoxOS, or UbuntuPhone have demonstrated new OS viability. Oh, and then, LG has to beat that new OS too and become the (umm, let’s see… I was told there would be no math….) sixth mobile operating system out there.
Of course, in the meantime, webOS will be running in your living room. Heck, maybe it’ll even have Netflix. Just how much of webOS will be present in these TV’s that will be recognizable as webOS? Honestly, probably not much. TVs aren’t really known for gesture manipulation, unless you’re an Xbox/Kinnect owner. And a card interface will probably just confuse the heck out of our poor DVRs.
So, was LG’s purchase of webOS a good thing, a bad thing, or a whatever thing?
It was a good thing because, despite the phrase, “better the devil you know” I know HP pretty well. Well enough to know if they were going to do anything with webOS, they’d probably screw the pooch even more royally than they have so far.
It’s a bad thing because LG has no plans to manufacture webOS mobile technology anytime soon. They likely won’t kick around plans to manufacture mobile webOS hardware anytime soon. All told, the Cubs probably have a better shot at a World Series title in the next 5 years, than any of us have to own a new webOS phone.
And it’s a whatever thing because, well, whatever. webOS is no deader than it was last week. It’s no more alive than it was last week. It’s just…