This week at CES, we will see a rebirth, or as the Verge calls it, a reboot. Our old friend, webOS is making its triumphant return to the large screen it was always meant for. No, I’m not referring to tablets, but to TV’s. Oh, didn’t you hear the news? Yeah, we review TV’s now. (No, we don’t).
But webOS’s return to electronics is definitely interesting. Sure, it’s not the electronics we want, nor does it resemble the interface we’ve all come to know and love – and more on that later – but it is confirmation that the webOS zombie has dug itself out of its grave and begun to roam the earth again. Which gives some reason to be optimistic, right? Well…
First off, the webOS TV interface is really only webOS in the guts. Imagine if your spouse/significant other died and came back to life as someone completely different. Like completely different. Like maybe not even the same species. That’s what we’re looking at when it comes to LG’s webOS TV interface. The guts of it are webOS, but the part that we all see and came to know is very, very different.
LG brought on webOS to do what it does the very best at its core. Multitasking. Channel surfing is a thing. People love to flip through the channels to see what’s on, or what’s worth watching. But in the world of smart TV’s, we don’t just have channels. We have entirely different content delivery systems ranging from Netflix, to Hulu, to Youtube. People love to flip through content and that is what webOS is designed to help them do. But LG had to completely rework webOS to get it to make sense on a TV.
Since we are not, in fact, a TV review web site, I’ll summarize what the interface looks like, instead of going all in-depth. Basically, the cards metaphor is still there except that the cards are more like icons at the bottom of the screen, rather like a launcher. This launcher facilitates fast app switching, similar to the Alt+Tab action you get on a Windows PC or Command+Tab on a Mac. Each card does have a little “X” above it that you can click on to dismiss the app, in what I believe is a nod to the whole tossing cards away thing. But, as you can guess, webOS is basically nothing like what it was. In fact, you want to know how different it is? Get this. webOS has Netflix. BOOM!
But surely, LG’s pursuit of webOS as an operating system has to be good news for us mobile fans who would love to see it make a triumphant return to mobile right? Well, maybe and maybe not.
Had I written this article several months ago, I would have been more optimistic. LG has, in my humble opinion, fallen into yaap status. What is “yaap” status you ask? Well, yaap stands for “Yet Another Android Phone” which is to say, LG made for the most part garden variety, ho hum, smartphones. Even the LG G2 was nothing spectacular. Really, nothing below Samsung or Apple is considered “spectacular” from a numbers standpoint. Only HTC stood apart from the legions of second tier OEMs with a phone that the tech community loved, and adopted, but never took off. Until the LG G Flex that is.
We all know how much Michael Fisher loves him some hot G Flex action. Much of the rest of the tech community agrees with him (others not so much) which may allow the opportunity to shine at the top of the second tier pile. As long as LG continues to build on this success, it really has no reason to pursue another platform.
But several months ago when LG was pumping out yaap after yaap, maybe webOS would have been a good way to stand apart from the rest of the crowd. Of course we all know that “standing apart” does not necessarily mean “standing above” which is also a concern. But with a user base just itching for an excuse to return and an already strong homebrew community, LG might have been wise to put some quality marketing muscle behind webOS and see if it could succeed with great hardware and a company that cares.
As a matter of fact, LG might still want to make a run at the tablet market. I think many would agree that webOS 3.0 was and still is the best tablet operating system out there. It just came with a lot of baggage. Get rid of some of that baggage and add on a nice app ecosystem (like maybe one that was developed for TV’s for example) and there might be something worth buying here.
Honestly though, this is all just wishful thinking. I don’t give webOS a snowball’s chance in hell of ever returning to the mobile space, and if it did, an even lesser chance at success. But optimism is the tattoo on the lower back of webOS faithful and to it we cling with all our might. Who knows, maybe some day.