TouchPad, WebOS doomed from the start

Brian X. Chen, writing for the New York Times, explains how H.P.’s TouchPad — more precisely, WebOS — was doomed from the start. As Chen points out, it sold for a mere seven weeks before H.P. removed it. I was surprised and disappointed. When H.P. bought Palm and WebOS, I figured it had a winning combination. Like Apple, H.P. would control the hardware and the software. The software, however, was a problem from the start.

“From concept to creation, WebOS was developed in about nine months, this person said, and the company took some shortcuts. With a project like this, programmers typically start by creating the equivalent of building blocks that can be reused and combined to create different applications. But with WebOS, Palm employees initially constructed each app from scratch. Later, they made such blocks, but they were overhauled once by Palm and then again by H.P., forcing programmers to relearn how to build WebOS apps.”

Ouch. Consider that by 2009, as Chen points out, large numbers of developers were busily creating apps for iOS and Android. The situation previously described would put a real damper on H.P.’s recruitment efforts. Additionally, the TouchPad was released after Apple’s iPad 2, which provided a snappier OS and overall more pleasant experience. Seven weeks and $3.3 billion dollars later, the TouchPad was gone. The post-cancellation update to firmware 3.0.4 reportedly increased performance significantly, but it was obviously too late.

Again, it’s unfortunate. I owned several Palm devices in the late 90’s and loved all of them. I figured the TouchPad would be a fantastic device. I, and H.P., was wrong.