“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’”
― John Greenleaf Whittier, Maud Muller – Pamphlet
Via its Pilot and Palm PDAs, Palm was singlehandedly responsible for ushering in the PDA revolution, which led to the smartphone and tablet revolutions, but it met a sad fate at the hands of a combination of market forces and mismanagement by a series of HP execs.
We’ve covered the sad decline of webOS, culminating in the bargain-basement selloff of the TouchPad tablet. But now The Verge has an intriguing report on prototypes and design documents for the webOS devices that would have come next if the iPad 2’s sleek, thin design hadn’t made the TouchPad look like a bloated monster by comparison.
The designs include a new, thinner tablet, two different phones dumping the Pre’s hardware keyboard in favor of the touchscreen that iPhone and many Android devices favored, and netbook-like tablet with a sliding-hinged keyboard (not unlike the four prototypes of similar devices that were shown at CES 2011).
There is also material about the next generation of webOS, codenamed “Eel,” which would have extended the card stack and panel design metaphors of webOS with more flexibility in arrangement of the panels. All that went by the wayside, of course, in the wake of HP’s decision to discontinue Palm operations altogether and focus back on more traditional products.
That being said, webOS isn’t entirely dead. LG bought the operating system from HP in 2012, and is finally bringing it back to the market in its newest smart TVs. Over half of LG’s LED LCD HD TVs will be using webOS, in fact. Some might find it a bit odd that they’re no longer using Android, perhaps—my own Android smartphone is an LG—but on the other hand, webOS is an operating system that is uniquely theirs.
Google may ultimately be the loser here. Google has been pushing Android to the smart television front for years now and it has just lost LG—one of the most prominent television manufacturers in the world—as a key partner. Android has proven its ability to move to just about any device category from wearables to set top boxes to video game systems, but it has never really caught on in the television world. The big TV makers like LG and Samsung have their own proprietary systems and will push forward with them, marginalizing Android on large screens to a variety of smaller manufacturing partners.
It even comes with its own version of “Clippy”—a cute little bean-shaped bird named, well, Bean Bird who will help consumers set their TVs’ features up.
It’s a little funny to see a phone and tablet operating system move to a TV with no extant phones or tablets out there—and LG seems content to keep making Android phone and tablet hardware itself. But I suppose TVs are a different market altogether, and you don’t necessarily have to have the same OS on both classes of device to use them with each other.