HP webOS: Some Parting Thoughts

I’ve been thinking for the last few hours or so how best to express my feelings following HP’s announcement yesterday morning. If you’ve followed my posts on Twitter since then, you’ll have noticed a certain disappointment and frustration over various aspects of what HP announced, and I really want to get this right. After having been involved for so long with the outstanding webOS community, I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade—but, at the same time, my disappointment and frustration remains very real.

And then it struck me. The best way to describe my own situation—and I can’t say whether or not it applies to all that many people—is that while a few months ago I was approaching things from the perspective of a webOS enthusiast, today I’m approaching things from the perspective of a smartphone user with greatly expanded needs. While before I was writing about, analyzing, discussing, and evangelizing webOS essentially for its own sake, I’m now looking for tools to allow me to manage a dramatically increased workload and greater responsibilities at home.

Before, it didn’t matter that I couldn’t edit Office documents on my Pre, or remote access my work PC, or even read Nook ebooks. Because I was focusing on webOS itself, and because I had no real need to do those things while away from my PCs, their absence didn’t matter. That all changed, however, as I’ve written about in the past, and so in evaluating the platform from the perspective of someone who really needs (or, in some cases, simply really wants) to do those things, webOS just doesn’t meet my needs.

I was hoping that yesterday’s announcement might change that. I was hoping for a wide range of developers to stand up and announce support for the platform, and for a range of competitive devices to be announced for immediate availability—defined in terms of weeks, as HP’s CEO recently implied. What we got instead were some limited partner announcements, good to great hardware, and the same sort of non-committal, stretched-out timeframe that harkens me uncomfortably back to the webOS experiences of the past.

I have to admit to also being worn out by constantly waiting for webOS developments that usually but not always eventually materialized, sort of. I waited for months for the Pre to be released after being announced in January 2009, while watching the initial fever burn out to an almost non-existing buzz. I waited for webOS 1.2 to be released to fix a number of outstanding issues, then 1.4 to be released to provide video editing and advanced gaming. Then I waited for 1.4.5 to be released, and then after waiting for webOS 2.X I’m now learning that legacy devices will not receive 2.X at all. Of course, I’ve waited forever to get Flash support on my Sprint Pre, and of course that’s not going to happen, ever.

I’m simply exhausted by all the waiting, and to hear that the next legitimate webOS smartphone option, the Pre 3, and the TouchPad have “planned availability this summer,” makes me dread the notion of spending another six months or so of speculating about exactly when that means and of hanging on every (false) rumor. It’s been a seemingly endless cycle with webOS, and frankly, I’m tired of it.

Some people challenged me on Twitter, asking why I’m in such a hurry and implying that I’m just being impatient. I’ve made the same sorts of arguments myself in the past, but in stepping back from my webOS enthusiast position and looking at things from the position of someone who simply has a set of well-defined needs, I see how limited that kind of argument really is. Instead I would ask: why would I wait months to do the things that I need to do today, simply because one of a number of options remains unavailable? In other words, why, exactly, would I wait months longer for webOS when alternatives exist that meet my needs right now?

In answer, I’ll say: consider the following scenarios.

Scenario 1: Shopping at Costco with my family at 7:30pm on a Tuesday night, carrying my Sprint Pre

Boss (via email): Hey Mark, can you do me a favor and proofread this proposal? I promised it to the prospect by 9:00pm tonight.

Me: Well, sorry, I’d love to, but I’m out with the family and away from a PC.

Boss: Oh. Well, that’s too bad. I really hoped you’d get a chance to look at this. Can’t you take a look on your phone?

Me: I can take a look, but I can’t make any changes.

Boss: Really? Huh. So, tell me again why we’re paying for your plan every month?

Me: Again, I’m really sorry.

Boss: Get an iPhone tomorrow. I can do this on mine, no problem.

Me: Okay.

Scenario 2: Shopping at Costco with my family at 7:30pm on a Tuesday night, carrying my Sprint Epic

Boss (via email): Hey Mark, can you do me a favor and proofread this proposal? I promised it to the prospect by 9:00pm tonight.

Me: No problem, I’ll take a look.

(Pull out my Epic, open the attachment in the included version of Thinkfree Office, make some edits)

Me (15 minutes later): Okay, here you go. It looks great. I just made a few changes in paragraphs 3, 7, and 12.

Boss: Awesome, thanks!

Me: Good luck!

Now, you tell me. Why would I accept Scenario 1, when I can so easily accomplish Scenario 2? Which is better for my real life? What about webOS is so spectacular that I should be willing to accept such a fundamental limitation—after 20 months of owning the Sprint Pre—for yet another six months?

The answer is, I shouldn’t. It really makes no sense to do so, particularly when it remains unclear exactly how long I’d have to wait and whether or not webOS will do everything I need even if I do. It’s not impatience on my part, it’s unmet need, and no matter how great webOS is as a mobile OS, if it doesn’t do what I need it to do, then it’s simply silly to wait until it does.

For those of you who only need to do the things that webOS can do today, then by all means, waiting for better hardware, software, and ecosystem makes sense. If you have no great need for a tablet today, then waiting until sometime over the summer—say, as early as June or as late as August—is a reasonable proposition. But if you need to get things done today that webOS can’t do, then I can’t think of a single reason that would convince you, or me, to wait another day.

The Epic I purchased a few weeks ago does all of these things, and more. I’ve really enjoyed the ability to catch up on my reading whenever I have a few free moments using the Nook client, and when my boss sends me a document he needs me to edit right away, I’ve appreciated the ability to do so no matter where I happen to be. The same goes for making audio recordings of meetings, using the vastly superior Android Evernote client for taking notes, and everything else that the Epic does and the Pre doesn’t.

If I had the time to keep up with webOS as a hobby, then I’m sure I’d likely continue to write about it even as I continued to use the Epic. However, I don’t, and so I’ll likely really set webOS aside this time and perhaps return to it sometime in the future. I know that HP will be successful with the platform, and that by this time next year  webOS will likely be a much more viable option for me. If it is, and if I’m in a position to make a switch back, then I’ll certainly do so. Things could even change more quickly than that, should I get an opportunity (and a nice financial incentive, courtesy of HP) to do so when the Pre 3 and TouchPad become available sometime in the summer.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to check in on Twitter and might post a bit here or there. Thanks for following me on Twitter over these many months and for reading this blog, and I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent among the webOS community. All the best to everyone, and hopefully I’ll be back sooner rather than later.

Comments

  1. I can understand you 100% as I already stated on Twitter.
    I have a relativly new Pre and will keep it a little bit longer, if HP doesn’t compensate me for the not coming 2.x I might get a Nexus S or a Win Phone 7.
    I love webOS but HP really did a number on me.

  2. Well said. I may miss the webos ui, but I think the expanded app functionality of an android phone will help me get over it.

    In addition to the wait for release sometime in the summer, you have to allow a few more weeks for the wizards at webos-internals to fill in the gaps.

  3. Hey Mark, I hear you. I was also very, very disappointed at both the news of new hardware not coming out for another 4-5 months and the fact that 1st Generation Pre/Pixi users were just kicked off the webOS update plans. It’s total BS. I’m furious, actually. I’ve had my Sprint Pre since two weeks after launch day and I really, really need an upgrade on hardware and software. I don’t know if I can hold off for another 4-5 months because my Pre is truly on its last legs, physically. I’m with you on all points here. You take care out there in Android land, I may be joining you soon. HP is just too late.

  4. Jordan Rome says:

    I agree. I am very dissapointed also. It strange how emotionally wrapped up you can get in waiting, rumors and release dates. Im tired of it too.

  5. Sounds like you’ve made up your mind and need to make the change for your own self, but along with that you need to drop this site because you can no longer support it and should start a site for a phone you can.

    • Mark Coppock says:

      Roge – No need to drop the site, really. I might update it periodically, and there’s a really good chance that I’ll return to webOS one day.

  6. DigitalYout says:

    Mark, I totally am in agreement with you. I too love webOS but due to what didn’t happen with HP’s reveal yesterday, my mind is getting close to made up. I can’t wait anymore. I feel as a Sprint Palm Pre owner that I’ve been lied to. I can’t continue to chase the dangling carrot HP is selling. Waiting until summer for the Pre3 is insane. It will be outdated by the time it’s released. The TouchPad is the only piece of hardware which announced that piqued my interest. I can wait until summer for it because of financial reasons. I will wait to see if Sprint announces any other after MWC. Then I might try the Epic or the new Kyocera Echo. HP waiting until summer to release their two better devices is reminiscent of Palm and the Pre.

  7. In one way I can understand your points. However, it also sounds to me like you’d change NFL teams because you’re not getting the level of excitement you desire from your team on Sundays. Rather than pitch in the towel, how about working harder to promote and accelerate development of webos and related products? Be part of the solution. I can see how you feel like you’re always waiting. This site and other are on top of any little notion of something new and begin speculating wildly and thus your “wait” begins much sooner than most others. HP said “coming months” and this site (and others) seemed to talk like they meant ‘coming weeks’. So coming months began to feel like an eternity. Ok, babbled long enough. Hand w/WebOS and help push it further faster.

    • Mark Coppock says:

      @HiggiML – I really do need to stress this point: as I’ve written before, I simply no longer have the time to evangelize the platform as I once did. That’s not by choice, it’s the result of some recent changes to my personal and professional lives. And you know, I’m not exactly getting paid to do it.

      That said, it leads me into my main point: strictly as a smartphone user with very specific needs (doc editing, voice recording, Nook ebook reading, etc.), I find that webOS doesn’t meet my needs and Android does. No amount of evangelizing on my part is going to make that happen soon enough to allow me the level of productivity I need. Why would I spend time I don’t have to make a platform successful months (or years) from now? Frankly, that makes no sense to me.

      My point in writing this blog post isn’t to castigate HP Palm or to convince anyone else that they should switch from webOS. Rather, it’s to explain to the handful of readers that I have why I’ve made the decision that I’ve made.

      Your football analogy is interesting, given that I’ve been a Colts fan since the day they moved to Indianapolis. I certainly saw my share of down years, and I stuck with the Colts nevertheless. I was rewarded with a number of great years since, and I look forward to more. But, my allegiance to a football team doesn’t impact my ability to do my job in a way that makes me more money, gets me promoted, etc., nor does it impact how I can manage to juggle so many new personal responsibilities. My smartphone does, however, and so I need to make the decision that works for me today.

  8. WebOS newbie question, pls don’t bite my head off. Well-stated frustrations, totally understandable. And obviously there is little that HP can do to address these concerns other than to blow us away with execution of the vision that was announced yesterday. But… would a generous trade-in program from HP be a meaningful gesture? Anything else that they could reasonabley do over the next 4-6 months to help keep the faithful intact? No, I’m not undercover, just a new convert and as such it’s hard to see the veteran faithful so burned out.

    • Mark Coppock says:

      @Matt – I think that offering a generous hardware upgrade would be a perfectly logical thing for HP to do. It would alleviate some of the resentment that some folks are feeling, and demonstrate to future buyers that HP means to stick by the platform. It doesn’t solve my problem, however, because a Pre 3 this summer doesn’t help me meet my unmet needs today.

  9. Edward Kuns says:

    Fantastically and unemotionally and logically put. The most reasonable way to look at any tech device is as a useful tool. If that useful tool simply does not meet our needs, why stick with it?

  10. Well written and very hard to disagree with.

    As a side note, this put my own job in perspective… I’m glad I don’t have a boss like that! ;)

    • Mark Coppock says:

      @mlove99 – Actually, the new boss is great. I have no problem with the opportunity to do more, particularly when my efforts are rewarded.

  11. I just read your post on the limitations you saw w/some of the other OSes:
    http://www.aboutwebos.com/2011/01/29/nobodys-perfect/

    and it speaks to why I have tolerated the hardware failings, by far my biggest issue with using the Pre/webOS.

    I hope you keep posting your experiences, regardless of what OS you choose to use. Your insight can help those who follow, be it w/a webOS device or Epic/Android.

    And if my Palm Pre- fails me at the wrong time I may give up on it at some point myself. :)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by tsaunders, AW Chuck, johnfromunix, Erik, AboutwebOS and others. AboutwebOS said: #webOS: Some Parting Thoughts: http://bit.ly/h3Wucu @HP_PC @Palm [...]

  2. [...] I left webOS because I found the platform to be too limited. I’ve written about it on a number of occasions. As an avid reader and (eternally) aspiring writer, I like having access to every major ebook [...]

  3. [...] I left webOS because I found the platform to be too limited. I’ve written about it on a number of occasions. As an avid reader and (eternally) aspiring writer, I like having access to every major ebook [...]

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