Michael Mace dug into the webOS story, too, today with another excellent post. We kind of said the same thing. Mace said it was because there were no deep pockets to fix the flaws and no killer feature to get anyone interested. I contend that webOS would have looked innovative and killer if Apple hadn’t sucked all the oxygen out of the room before Palm got there.
But that’s not why I am writing this. I am writing this because Mace’s comment — who’s your daddy and what’s your killer feature — is profound for any company writing a platform product (OS or otherwise). His premise is that the inherent trade-offs in version 1.0 ensures that there will be missing features, bugs and performance issues. There is no way around that. The only way to fix that problem is version 2 and 3. The only way to get to version 2 and 3 is time. And having time does you no good if you have no customers.
So the fundamental questions for any platform product is: how do you stick around long enough to fix your flaws and why will anyone use your platform to begin with? Answer those and you have the best chance of being around for an awesome 3.0 launch.