A modest proposal for an HP smartwatch

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Interesting news hit the feeds last week. HP former smartphone maker and barely-tablet maker wants to make its own smartwatch. Yes. A smartwatch. There have been some rumors and teaser graphics surrounding this device and that’s all fine and good. Some speculation came to our attention regarding this HP smartwatch, and it has some merit, or at the very least should be considered.

HP’s smartwatch should run webOS.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Did I leave the oven on when I left the house this morning?” I have good news for you. Probably not. But now you’re thinking, “webOS is a dead platform Mr. DeadTechnology. Get over it!” and you’re not wrong, but when you stop and think about it, it actually makes an insane amount of sense.

veer-4g-webosA perfect fit

webOS was founded on the principle of using web-based technologies to perform smartphone tasks. Hence the name. So you automatically have a framework in place for making this device work with just about anything. Now, I’m not going to pretend to be a developer and know everything about everything. But I do know that webOS is a pretty nimble little minx when it comes to development, so from an outsiders perspective, this looks like something that could, in theory work.

And there is a passionate fan base and homebrew community out there just waiting to help make this work, however they can. One of the nice things about a webOS smartwatch is that it comes with its own pre-installed developer base just itching to make apps for this bad boy. You could have a pretty decent app store before long, which as we know is crucial to ecosystem growth. There aren’t a lot of smartwatches out there, and ecosystems are still on the light side, so for once, webOS would not be far behind the competition in that regard.

Built for small

Plus, webOS was designed to work on a small screen. The gesture based operating system is perfect for moving in between apps, and moving within apps as well. The same gestures could apply, especially the back gesture. It really is made to be navigated without taking up too much screen real estate which on a watch face is at an epic premium.

The Palm Veer by itself was almost as small as some smart watches out there (from a screen size perspective) and those that swallowed their prejudices and actually used the phone generally genuinely liked the experience. It wasn’t for everyone, sure, but the reaction was overwhelmingly positive from those who could get past the fact of how tiny the thing was.

webos-multitasking1Last standing

Just type, the last feature yet to be stolen by any platform would be absolutely perfect for a smartwatch. Just Type would allow you to perform quick actions, launch apps, and initiate searches all from a single bar, once again saving the precious screen real estate. Notifications would be similarly displayed as tiny icons, expandable for when they needed to be acted upon.

But making webOS into a smart watch interface would not be as simple as slapping it onto a tiny screen. One major component missing from webOS which would be absolutely critical to the user interface is voice input. The Pre3 did have a voice dial feature that worked, occasionally, but beyond that webOS never really had any kind of voice input capability. Further, making that voice input compatible with other services, like iOS, Android, or Windows Phone, might make a webOS smartwatch more of a non-starter.

One more thing

But if that’s the only thing standing in between a webOS smartwatch and reality, then (again, I am not a developer) but that doesn’t seem like an insurmountable obstacle. No one said a webOS smartwatch would be an easy endeavor, which is pretty much par for the course for our little operating system that could. What I do know is that if it wanted any chance of succeeding, it had better come from LG and not from HP. But the gesture based interface just seems very right for a smartwatch platform and it would be interesting to see if the platform chastised for being released in such a small form factor could succeed in an even smaller one.

Leader image: Pebble, edited by Adam Doud

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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!