Competitors Should Be Worried About webOS 2.0

PC World published an article with the headline, “Why WebOS 2.0 Should Have Rivals Worried.” Setting aside the unfortunate misspelling (folks, it’s webOS, not WebOS), I strongly agree with this sentiment. First, the smartphone market, for all the hype around the iPhone and Android, is actually nascent. It has a long, long way to grow and develop. Today’s leaders are not guaranteed to be tomorrow’s. For an idea of how today’s “entrenched” leaders really aren’t, consider how Android has grabbed so much attention and market share away from the iPhone in a relatively short period of time. And so, if any webOS competitor feels complacent towards any platform at this point, then simply put: they’re idiots.

Second, and here’s where I disagree with PC World (more on that in a moment): webOS is really that good. Those of us in the webOS community understand that to actually use webOS is to love it. Merely talking about “multitasking” and “non-obtrusive notifications” and “Synergy” is all well and good for marketing folks, but people have to actually experienced webOS—and not just for five minutes—to really understand how it changes one’s perspective on how a mobile device should work. webOS 2.0, with Stacks, Just Type, enhanced Synergy, and everything else will take that gestalt to another level entirely. Considering that the media and most pundits spend more time bashing Palm and talking about the platform’s “failure” than its strength, it’s no wonder so few people have been exposed to its unique nature.

So what did PC World write that prompts me to point this out? Check it out:

Suffice it to say there are some unique features that bring some pizazz to WebOS 2.0, but none of the details for the new WebOS suggest that there is anything groundbreaking about it as a mobile OS. So, should Apple, Google, RIM, or Microsoft even pay attention to WebOS? Rivals don’t need to be concerned about WebOS in and of itself, but the combination of WebOS with the marketing and distribution power of HP is another story. [Emphasis added.]

The fact is, there is much that’s “groundbreaking” about webOS, both in its current incarnation and in webOS 2.0. Here’s the short list:

  • The nature of webOS multitasking, which is to say that it allows the user to directly interact with running applications (as opposed to manipulating icons and lists), is “groundbreaking.” There’s never been anything like it in a mobile OS, and Stacks just widens the gap.
  • Synergy was so groundbreaking that every other platform has tried to follow Palm’s lead, which is the very definition of the word. webOS 2.0 takes Synergy to an entirely new and unparalleled level that the competition will be hard-pressed to emulate.
  • Universal search that’s initiated by just typing was also groundbreaking and is being universally copied. “Just Type” makes the concept more obvious and Quick Actions makes it uniquely powerful.
  • The fact that nothing’s been said about webOS 2.0 improving the platform’s unobtrusive notification system—which still hasn’t been equaled—is a testament to just how different—how groundbreaking—it really is.

That said, I do agree with PC World’s more basic premise: that HP’s marketing, financial, and supply chain strengths combined with webOS should have the competition worried. webOS gives HP and Palm tremendous leverage. If HP followed the rest of the market into Android and Windows Phone 7, then they’d be struggling to differentiate themselves and would likely fall into the trap of squeezing out margins to position themselves as a price leader. Smartphone hardware is just too commoditized for one manufacturer to out-design a smartphone, and there’s far less room for being unique like HP is with their line of Envy notebooks. And so HP’s strengths would mean little against the likes of HTC, Samsung, Motorola, and the rest.

Indeed, it’s webOS that will allow HP and Palm to create their own, Apple-esque position in the market. And once more money is spent on—hopefully—far more effective promotions of the webOS gestalt, that is, “if you use it, you’ll love it,” more people will get it. Part of that promotional effort should be placing live, fully functioning devices in a large number of retail outlets, so that people can actually use webOS and experience what makes it so special. Merely advertising multitasking, Just Type, Synergy, and the rest won’t cut it.

So, yes: rival platforms should be afraid. Very afraid. PC World gets it right when they say:

Now, WebOS has a second chance–and this time it has the marketing credibility and established sales and distribution channels of HP on its side. An excellent technology with poor marketing is doomed. A poor technology with excellent marketing can succeed. An innovative technology with superior marketing is virtually guaranteed. [Empasis added.]

Make note of that last sentence. We’ll be hearing more about it in the coming months.


  1. I hope NON of the Palm competitors is worried and take any precaution.

    Because, that would make it a little bit easier for HP/Palm to roll over them. ;-)

    Greetings from a Palm Pre+ User from Switzerland.


  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Justin Partain and Justin Partain, AboutwebOS. AboutwebOS said: Competitors should be worried about #webOS 2.0: @Palm @HP_PC [...]

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