webOS Failed From Lack of Oxygen, Nothing More, Nothing Less

In Flop of H.P. TouchPad, an Object Lesson for the Tech Sector

Two days ago, Brian X. Chen wrote an article for The New York Times regarding the flop of webOS. I’ll sum up the article for you here: it is the operating system’s fault that Palm and HP failed. The world of hardware and users weren’t ready for a web-based operating system.

Excuse my french but… bull shit.

The operating system was fine. I remember rushing over to a Sprint store to play with it and really enjoying the OS, actually. I thought it was smartly designed and although it had a couple of learning curve issues it was a solid system. While I have had my moments hating on Palm, I really was excited about developing for it because it used technologies I could use in other places, too. The hardware was good enough in my opinion (although I do remember there were some device manufacturing issues that took a few months to iron out).

Even the strategy of starting on Sprint, in my mind, was not a bad one. Focus on a smaller niche that you can dominate and then, with momentum, spread to other niches. Sprint is the smallest of the big four niches here in the US. Sprint helped with marketing and gave Palm time to work out any problems before also adding AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile to their platforms.

Palm (and HP) failed because Apple sucked all the air out of the room. Then Google did a good enough job of copying Apple that any remaining air went to Android. webOS went cyanotic almost immediately [1]. And the one thing any good pyromaniac knows is that you can’t start a fire without any oxygen [2]. It’s that freaking simple.

Folks at HP and Palm can come with all the complicated reasons they want to make themselves feel good. But the reality is the software and hardware failed because there just wasn’t any oxygen left in the room. Sometimes you make history and sometimes you are made by it.

[1] My 5 and 3 year old love that word. I always wanted to use it in a blog post.

[2] I’m not one but my wife might be.

3 thoughts on “webOS Failed From Lack of Oxygen, Nothing More, Nothing Less

  1. Totally agree Elia – not the sw and hw’s fault it was the failure to compete in the presence of such momentum.

    I remember your talk at one of the local mobile events (mobile portland?) discussing a bunch of the history and your thoughts on the future.
    It would be fun to hear you do that talk again.. updated of course 🙂

  2. Pingback: Who’s Your Daddy and What’s Your Killer Feature? « Elia Insider

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