Legacy: How webOS lives today in iOS, Android, and Windows Phone



There are few words in the English language that carry more power, more prominence, or more distinction. Legacy is what lives beyond. It’s what carries forward whether its creator moves forward with it or not. Everyone strives for a legacy, whether it’s a parent who wants to put their child in a better place than they had, or a king who desires a strong and prosperous kingdom. Legacy is on every mind and in every heart on the planet. Big or small.

Foam_FingerOur favorite operating system is dead as we know it. Sure there are a few devices still making the rounds, a few stalwart fans that are holding on. I myself still have a TouchPad that I use almost every day. Phoenix Devices and Open Mobile are close (or something) to releasing ACL and the highly coveted Netflix app to that hardware to rejuvenate those two year old tablets. There are still those waving the banner and they are evidence of the legacy webOS left behind.

Of course, being a webOS fan myself, I am programmed to write the following statement (just bear with me) “Who knows? Maybe some day it’ll come back.” Ok, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

But even more powerful than the leftover fans, is webOS itself. Its legacy is not just in its fans but in its very presence on every living and vibrant mobile platform today. Each and every one has a feature, design paradigm, or UI element that can be traced directly back to webOS without the shadow of a doubt. WebOS did it first, and best. And because of that, webOS lives on in its legacy.

Image courtesy of webOSNation

Image courtesy of webOSNation


It’s not just a corporate America buzz word any more. Synergy was webOS’s answer to our intricately connected lives. No one really has just one way of communicating any more. There are phone numbers, email addresses, Facebooks, Twitters, and all sorts of ways to stalk check-in with your friends and loved ones. WebOS brought that all together in one contacts area, calling it Syngery. It took all of your contacts from everywhere and automatically merged them (mostly) into one place.

Of course older platforms had taken steps toward unifying contact lists before webOS. Instead of a single entry for each and every phone number, IM, etc. for a given person, Blackberry and Windows Mobile had moved toward putting all that info under one name, but you still had to put it there. With Synergy, you entered your usernames/passwords, and let webOS do the work of pulling the info down, and automatically merging “Adam Doud” the phone contact with “Adam Doud” the Facebook friend (spoiler alert – that’s not my facebook name, so that’s probably a bad example). So pick up your mobile device, whatever you have, and go into “Settings” and then “Accounts”. Look at what you have there, and thank webOS for it.

unifiedUnified Messaging

With so many ways to send messages these days – SMS, Twitter, Facebook, etc – it’s hard to imagine how anyone could keep these things straight. WebOS found it hard to imagine as well, so it brought all your messaging into one place in its unified messaging. Instead of a messaging app only handling SMS, webOS brought AIM, Google Talk and Yahoo messenger all into one app. You could link up with your buddies on any messaging platform in just one place. Sound familiar?

How abut Google hangouts? How about Facebook chat heads? Both platforms have brought SMS messaging into their messaging apps now. Even now, I have a text message waiting for me in my Google hangouts app. Remember Windows Phone? Its people hub and messaging app allowed you to connect via SMS or Facebook messenger with a tap. I even confused the heck out of a friend of mine once because I did it accidentally. They were both just there.

Why is this important? Well, have you ever tried to reference something someone messaged to you? Was that address sent in a text message or a Facebook message? Problem = solved. It’s all there in one place, thanks in large part to webOS.


Pick up your phone. Multitask. Thank webOS.

The multitasking family tree

The multitasking family tree

Every mobile platform in existence today uses cards in one form or another. Some are more effective than most, granted, but everyone uses it. Windows Phone uses a long press on the back button, Android uses a long press on the home button, and iOS uses a double press on the home button. Android and iOS have even gone so far as to mimick the closing action of the swipe up. What’s that Android fans? I’m wrong? Turn your phone 90 degrees. Thank you, have a nice day.

Cards was webOS. The terms “cards” and “webOS” couldn’t be used without each other in those days. Cards are what made so many of us fall in love with the platform. Minimized versions of apps that could be flipped through so easily. It absolutely demolished any kind of multitasking paradigm in use when webOS debuted and for years afterward. Gradually other platforms saw it and stole adopted it for themselves. It is webOS’s legacy that powers today’s power users. You’re welcome.

The funny thing is, despite laying the groundwork for future generations of smartphones to come on 4 other major platforms (Blackberry used to be major after all), webOS failed. It failed hard. Some of it was its own fault, a lot of it was not. So it’s almost ironic that three successful platforms could have been propelled forward by one that failed.

WebOS lives today

I’ve given you just three examples. There are probably more. But these three core parts of webOS are powering today’s smartphones. That is huge. It cannot be understated. Sure there are probably parts of Tizen in iOS, or parts of Windows Mobile in Android, if you squint just right. But it’s not like anyone has ever gone to or watched an Apple event and shouted out “Hey! That’s Bada!”

And yet, that has happened at almost every product launch since 2010 with webOS. The core parts of webOS, and the parts that made it a truly great operating system live on despite webOS’s untimely demise. WebOS changed the face of mobile technology with that one product demo at CES in 2009. It altered everyone’s thinking and it changed the landscape forever. And at the end of the day, what more legacy could one ask for?

Someday, son, you will shape future generations on smartphones

Someday, son, you will shape future generations of smartphones

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About The Author
Adam Doud
Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs. Read more about Adam Doud!