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  1.    #1  
    H.P.’s Tablet, Some Say, Was Bound to Be a Flop
    By BRIAN X. CHEN

    The TouchPad tablet from Hewlett-Packard was one of the most closely watched new gadgets of 2011 — and quickly turned out to be the year’s biggest flop. The TouchPad, which was supposed to be a rival to Apple’s iPad, lasted just seven weeks on the market before H.P. killed it, citing weak sales.

    Analysts point to a long list of factors behind the tablet’s quick demise. But some of the people involved in creating the tablet’s core software now say the product barely had a fighting chance.

    That software is called WebOS, an operating system built on the same technology used by many Web browsers. It promised to be more flexible and open than Apple’s tightly controlled iOS software, and more beautiful than Google’s sometimes wonky Android system. H.P. acquired Palm, the maker of WebOS, for $1.2 billion in 2010 so it could use the software in products like the TouchPad.

    WebOS turned out to be something of a toxic asset. Several former Palm and H.P. employees involved in WebOS say that there was little hope for the software from the beginning, because the way it was built was so deeply flawed.

    “Palm was ahead of its time in trying to build a phone software platform using Web technology, and we just weren’t able to execute such an ambitious and breakthrough design,” said Paul Mercer, former senior director of software at Palm, who oversaw the interface design of WebOS and recruited crucial members of the team. “Perhaps it never could have been executed because the technology wasn’t there yet.”

    The WebOS story also illustrates how hard it will be for anyone to mount a serious challenge to Apple and Google when it comes to mobile operating systems. Those two companies have won dominant market shares and the allegiance of thousands of app developers. Many other companies have chosen Android for their phones and tablets, but this ties them closely to Google and makes it hard to stand out in the crowd of Android products. By owning WebOS, H.P. could control both the hardware and software and gain a more direct relationship with customers.

    And Palm’s sales pitch was that because the operating system was based on common Web technology, it would be easier to create software for it, which would attract programmers to make WebOS apps.

    But WebOS had problems from the start, when Palm first created it for the Pre smartphone, former Palm employees say.

    Mr. Mercer gained fame at Apple as a software designer for the first iPod, and Palm recruited him in 2007 to help create the Pre. After some internal debate, the company chose to have WebOS rely on WebKit, an open-source software engine used by browsers to display Web pages. Mr. Mercer said that this was a mistake because it prevented applications from running fast enough to be on par with the iPhone. But a former member of the WebOS app development team said the core issue with WebOS was actually Palm’s inability to turn it into a platform that could capture the enthusiasm and loyalty of outside programmers. There were neither the right leaders nor the right engineers to do the job, said this person, who declined to be named because he still had some ties to H.P.

    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.

    Another issue was recruiting. In 2009, it was hard to find programmers who had a keen understanding of WebKit, Mr. Mercer said, and Apple and Google had already snatched up most of the top talent.

    Some former employees pointed fingers at Jon Rubinstein, then Palm’s chief executive, saying he failed to steer WebOS in the right direction. Mr. Rubinstein had worked on the first iPod with Mr. Mercer. The former employees said that because of his hardware background, he did not understand the logistics of creating a powerful new operating system, and he was ultimately responsible for the decision to rely on WebKit. Mr. Rubinstein is still at H.P., which declined to make him available for comment.

    The Pre went on sale in June 2009 and received generally glowing reviews from critics, who called it a solid device with innovative design elements that rivaled the iPhone. Sprint said it was its fastest-selling phone ever.

    But customers immediately recognized that the phone was too slow, said the former Palm employee who worked on apps, and “this led to extremely high return rates.” There were also complaints about the phone spontaneously restarting itself or freezing up.

    The company had enough staff to get the Pre out the door, but it underestimated how many people it would need to make improvements, the former employee said.

    Just six months after the Pre’s introduction, a Northeast Securities analyst said that its sales were in “substantial decline.”

    Palm put itself up for sale in April 2010. It soon attracted H.P., which hoped to use WebOS to accelerate its smartphone and tablet efforts.

    But as H.P. absorbed Palm, important members of the WebOS team were disappearing. Mr. Mercer was already gone, having lost confidence, he said, in WebOS’s future. Peter Skillman, vice president of design at Palm, eventually left for a job at Nokia. Matias Duarte, vice president of human interface and user experience for WebOS, left a month after the acquisition for a job at Google. Several people said his departure was a major loss. “He was WebOS,” the former member of the WebOS software team said of Mr. Duarte. “When he left, the vacuum was just palpable. What you’re seeing is frankly a bunch of fourth- and fifth-stringers jumping onto WebOS in the wake of Duarte’s leaving.” Mr. Duarte did not respond to a request for an interview.

    H.P. would soon go through its own major changes. In August 2010, Mark Hurd, the chief executive, resigned amid accusations of sexual harassment, and H.P. named Léo Apotheker to replace him. Under Mr. Apotheker’s leadership, H.P. ramped up its WebOS investments, announcing two new smartphones and the TouchPad, the first WebOS tablet. Like Apple’s iPad, the TouchPad had a 9.7-inch touch screen and cost $500 for the cheapest model.

    Mr. Apotheker said WebOS would expand to more devices, including PCs and printers. And what Palm lacked — resources, engineers and marketing power — H.P. would provide.

    “Palm was a company starved for investment,” Mr. Apotheker said in an onstage interview at the D9 technology conference in June. “It didn’t have the reach, it didn’t have the capability. And despite creating some great technology, it couldn’t create the kind of quality in the final product and the hardware.”

    The TouchPad shipped in August, months after Apple released the iPad 2, which was significantly thinner and faster, for the same $500 price tag. The new tablet got lukewarm reviews. “There’s no more guaranteed way to make something feel like a train wreck in slow motion than to make it run like it’s a train wreck in slow motion,” Matt Buchanan of Gizmodo wrote.

    It was clear that the TouchPad was no hit, but it still shocked the tech world when H.P. withdrew it from the market so quickly — and said it would stop making WebOS hardware altogether. H.P. later said it would write off $3.3 billion, half of which came from the “wind-down of H.P.’s WebOS device business.”

    A former employee in sales at Palm who worked on the WebOS team at H.P. said the company expanded the team with layers of vice presidents, and added hundreds of engineers to develop the TouchPad.

    This person, who declined to be named because she did not want to comment publicly on internal matters at H.P., said many former Palm employees stayed at H.P. because they were passionate about WebOS. “The H.P. people came in and said H.P.’s vision is to put WebOS on all their hardware,” she said. “WebOS became their shiny new toy, but then they just abandoned it.”

    In September, H.P. fired Mr. Apotheker, citing “weaknesses” in his ability to reach goals and communicate. His replacement was Meg Whitman, the former eBay chief.

    Three months into the job, Ms. Whitman announced that H.P. would release the WebOS code for anyone to use, similar to Google’s open-source strategy with Android. If outside programmers and device makers end up improving the software, H.P. could presumably reconsider its decision to get out of WebOS hardware.

    Ms. Whitman said 600 employees were still working on WebOS. “By contributing this innovation, H.P. unleashes the creativity of the open-source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices,” Ms. Whitman said in a statement.

    Sam Greenblatt, chief technology officer at H.P., acknowledged in an interview that earlier versions of WebOS could be slow. But he said recent improvements in WebKit and WebOS over all had sped up performance. He shared H.P.’s continued ambitions for WebOS — that it would eventually expand into computers, televisions, even cars. “The No. 1 objective is to take the code to the next level,” he said.

    But Mr. Mercer insisted that WebKit would still leave WebOS underpowered relative to Apple’s software.

    “If the bar is to build Cupertino-class software in terms of responsiveness and beauty,” he said, “WebKit remains not ready for prime time, because the Web cannot deliver yet.”
  2. #2  
    Hi all,

    FYI....from the NY Times...

    take care,

    Jay

    January 1, 2012
    H.P.’s TouchPad Tablet Was Bound to Be a Flop, Some Say
    By BRIAN X. CHEN

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/02/te...gewanted=print

    The TouchPad tablet from Hewlett-Packard was one of the most closely watched new gadgets of 2011 — and quickly turned out to be the year’s biggest flop. The TouchPad, which was supposed to be a rival to Apple’s iPad, lasted just seven weeks on the market before H.P. killed it, citing weak sales.

    Analysts point to a long list of factors behind the tablet’s quick demise. But some of the people involved in creating the tablet’s core software now say the product barely had a fighting chance.
    Please Support Research into Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain and Spinal Injuries. If You Suffer from These, Consider Joining or Better Yet Forming a Support Group. No One Should Suffer from the Burden of Chronic Pain, Jay M. S. Founder, Leesburg Fibromyalgia/Resources Group
  3. #3  
    It's so depressing but it's so true. Web was a huge mistake at the time. Enyo, while still generally easy, was more difficult than Mojo and was headed for disaster. When apps were redesigned in Enyo, they were slow and had defects that should never have seen the light of day.

    I feel real empathy for employees who were compassionate about the operating system and stayed with HP.
  4. #4  
    Interesting read, it's really informative to hear about the technology limitations that they had to try and overcome, however the conclusion it appears to be making is dead wrong. The TouchPad's performance is not the reason it failed. Even if it had had the significant performance improvements that we have seen in the updates from launch day it would still have failed.

    It failed because the price was way too high, the app selection was insufficient, the media store content is insufficient, and there are a few glaring issues that HP still hasn't fixed (cut and paste is clunky, no cursor arrows). THAT is why it failed, not because the browser takes a couple seconds longer to load web pages.
    rmeigs, mister2d and tobeaman like this.
  5. #5  
    Quote Originally Posted by ilovedessert View Post
    Hi all,

    FYI....from the NY Times...

    take care,

    Jay

    January 1, 2012
    H.P.’s TouchPad Tablet Was Bound to Be a Flop, Some Say
    By BRIAN X. CHEN

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/02/te...gewanted=print

    The TouchPad tablet from Hewlett-Packard was one of the most closely watched new gadgets of 2011 — and quickly turned out to be the year’s biggest flop. The TouchPad, which was supposed to be a rival to Apple’s iPad, lasted just seven weeks on the market before H.P. killed it, citing weak sales.

    Analysts point to a long list of factors behind the tablet’s quick demise. But some of the people involved in creating the tablet’s core software now say the product barely had a fighting chance.
    Cliff Notes version of the article... "webOS is too slow compared to iOS to be competitive". Translation: Apple's marketing and software trickery are unbeatable in the market. Simply put, iOS devices "seem" lightning fast on a appearance level but when you get down to the time the user can "interact", things are on par.

    As part of a team evaluating several tablets for our BYOD device initiative, I spent numerous weeks testing and benchmarking, iPad2, TouchPad, Transformer, GTab10, and Playbook. The trickery that iOS uses launching apps in ingenious when you think about it. You get this "frame" for whatever app you launch immediately after touching the icon, but then the frame has a "loading" message while the actual app content loads. just under 2 seconds later, you can interact. On webOS you get the "launcher" card which "pulses" every 98 hundredths of a second and 95% of the apps load just after once pulse (just under 2 seconds). The difference is that once the launcher card in webOS maximizes, the app is ready to go. That was a big conflict on our evaluation until I proofed it out for the team.

    webOS seems slower but when measuring the time the user can do anything, it's 2 seconds for both. Have to give Jobsey his props on that technique, it's evil genius, and it's worked far and beyond what i'm sure he imagined.
  6. #6  
    So two questions:

    1) Is the general premise of the article true, that at its very core webOS is not a feasible competitor to iOS and Android because it uses webkit?

    2) Now that it is open source, can whatever issues webOS have be rectified?
  7. #7  
    Picked up the link via a Twitter post. The suggestion was that it was from an inately flawed OS. But, really when you read the article what you see is it was FUBAR management, despite the heroic brilliant efforts of developers; from a bootstrapped beginning to a corporate suit, self defeating, wimpering end. Think I am going to go be depressed for a bit before I again put my hope in the open source process.
    - - - - - - - - - - -
    Gone to digital heaven:
    ..Palm Pilot M100
    ..HandSpring Visor
    ..Kyocera 6035
    ..Treo 600/755
    ..Centro
    - - - - - - - - - - -
  8. #8  
    On webOS you get the "launcher" card which "pulses" every 98 hundredths of a second and 95% of the apps load just after once pulse (just under 2 seconds). The difference is that once the launcher card in webOS maximizes, the app is ready to go. That was a big conflict on our evaluation until I proofed it out for the team.
    95% of my webOS apps definitely do not launch in 2 seconds; Facebook and the browser are two that immediately come to mind. The only things that really take more than say -- a second to load on the iPad (2) are games. It's more than an illusion in many cases.
  9. #9  
    Slowness by itself isn't a major problem. The early builds of OS X were sluggish due to adopting (then) new technologies. webOS didn't have to compete with iOS head to head to succeed; the problem is that the product itself couldn't compete at its price point and management should have realized that from the beginning. A $399 price tag and a few killer apps would have been a good start. The awe of being able to do a certain task better on the TouchPad was just non-existent aside from the slick multitasking and hackability -- two things the average consumer isn't necessarily concerned with.

    Remember that the iPad was conceived before the iPhone. From the start there was a plan for a complete eco system, and that began with the iPod and iTunes years prior. There was a decade of thinking behind the iPad while the TouchPad was thrown out the door after an acquisition that the execs thought would magically push them the forefront.

    The mistakes are immeasurable really. If you show up late to the party at least make some plans for the rest of the night.

    EDIT: The other thing to remember is that OS X was built from the start to be modular. Cocoa was conceived with a greater vision than desktops in mind. Apple just did nearly every thing right; competing with Jobs' secretive end vision that was years in the making just was unrealistic for the 'me too' folks. Hell, Apple even beat Palm to the PDA market but had sense to drop it before it became dead weight. They began planing for the next big things while everyone else tried to squeeze cash out of a product until they were forced to innovate -- with their feet dragging mind you (hello Microsoft).
    Last edited by b3d0u1n; 01/01/2012 at 07:50 PM.
  10. #10  
    It was aimed at beating the iPad not the iPad 2 and it was priced the same as an iPad 2. It was always going to fail

    An argument that has been had many many times

    I put a top end 10" tablets worth at £200 be it Apple, HP, Acer, ASUS etc etc etc

    A netbook is the same price at £200, a decent laptop about £400

    Why would I seriously pay £599 for a 64Gb iPad, for an extra £100 or so I can have a macbook !

    Maybe its just me on those figures above but Apple is a seemingly unstoppable machine. Most of its users will never have another product apart from Apple as long as they make that

    Its all a little too late for a lot of Tablet companies, I fear even too late for Amazon. I know we are a small country but the Kindle Fire is still not even out in the UK
    mister2d likes this.
  11. #11  
    b3s0u1n - Apple didn't drop pda's due to them being dead weight - pda's made money for another decade, almost. Apple just failed to execute well there, as they sometimes do. And Apple bought itunes, as they were late. Apple had many mistakes (less than Palm), but did a few key things right - especially the negotiations with the music labels.

    Apple survived for years, at a higher price point than pc's, because they offered a product people liked. Yes, Macs were slower and more expensive than pc's, but they were elegant and simple....
    KA1
    Visor Deluxe->Visor Prism/Digital Link->Treo 650->Treo 700p->Pre->GSM Unlocked Pre 2 (wifi only)->FrankenPre + Touchpad 32 ->+ Touchpad 4G ATT + ATT Pre3 + 64 White Touchpad... bliss.
  12. #12  
    It was a sad read, like reading an obituary of someone who died too young.

    Back when Pre's and Pixi's were sold, we teamed up with TiPb, Android Central, and CrackBerry to do some simple tests. We asked each person to shut off their phones and reboot them and then time how long it took to open basic apps like Maps and Facebook. We went on to test overclocked Pre's up to 1GHz.

    The 600MHz Pre took on average 4 to 7 times longer to open basic apps. Even the slower BB Storm was one of the fastest phones due to the optimization.

    The reason goes back to basic programming. iOS, Android, and BB allowed compiled code that could be optimized. webOS was interpreted, meaning that it had to read and recompile the code on-the-fly.

    Good compiled code can be optimized, and as a rule wins.
  13. #13  
    I think there some good points in the article, but I think it was off or inaccurate. Did Sprint customers return Pre's for being slow, or because they broke, cracked, or got the Oreo effect? Honestly? And the slowness factor - the big games and programs at launch were native, not JavaScript.

    I think the bigger problem for WebOS 1.x was lack of functionality, no API's, so developers couldn't use the camera or Mic... The TouchPad then had the API's, but didn't launch with a music solution, an ability to edit documents, no Kindle (for a month), no video output, no rdp, etc. Not good for a student, not good for a business man...

    The sad thing is the solutions are finally coming together, just too late...
    KA1
    Visor Deluxe->Visor Prism/Digital Link->Treo 650->Treo 700p->Pre->GSM Unlocked Pre 2 (wifi only)->FrankenPre + Touchpad 32 ->+ Touchpad 4G ATT + ATT Pre3 + 64 White Touchpad... bliss.
    C-Note likes this.
  14. #14  
    <threads merged>
  15. #15  
    I thought Android and iOS used WebKit, too. ?
  16. #16  
    Quote Originally Posted by ka1 View Post
    I think there some good points in the article, but I think it was off...

    The sad thing is the solutions are finally coming together, just too late...
    The article's point about speed was accurate. We tested and found it to be true. But as you point out it was so much more than that. The plastic screen was doomed to cracking. Poorly built sliders get the Oreo effect.

    But beyond that, as you point out, were the API's the developers so dearly needed. Dan could not put Music Player Remix into the market for 18 months becuase he had dared to touch the API's.

    Shazam could not get into the mic API so they were locked out. Barcode Scanner had no camera focus to control.

    So yes, the problems were more than just interpreted code.

    We have come far in the 36 months since webOS was announced but this is three generations later with 4G, HD displays, screen size options, microSD, sliders, QWERTY, and virtual keyboards, Visual Voicemail, Live Wallpaper, HD Video Chat, Flash, HDMI, NFC, Live Icons, Toggles, Widgets, Swype, and DLNA for wireless HD out.

    webOS was an amazing glimpse into the future of software. Hardware turned out to be important too.
    Last edited by milominderbinder; 01/01/2012 at 10:17 PM.
    pl212 likes this.
  17. #17  
    Calculator is the only app that launches immediately on webOS. Everything else is slow. Everyone's definition of "slow" is different but the benchmark is the devices from the fruit company. What's the excuse for the 5 minute boot up time? Oh right... webkit.

    We can make excuses all we want but the truth is, webOS as it was released to the public few times over was slow, stuttery, buggy, laggy, unsmooth, and unpolished. You seldom get multiple chances to impress the crowd and if at first you don't impress, that's it and Palm and HP both failed miserably. If you recall, there was considerable amount of buzz surrounding the original release of Pre-, so much so that even apple die hards like iJustine (yes, that youtube girl) actually went out and almost bought a Pre on launch day. We all patched the heck out of our Pres and Touchpads to get them to acceptable performance levels but they should just work out of the box with the smoothness of iphone/ipad.

    Wish things would have happened differently over the last 2 years but it is what it is. It would be great justice and reward for those of us that stuck around for so long if webOS really takes off beyond anyone's wildest expectations in 2012 and beyond.

    The article was a good read.
    milominderbinde likes this.
  18. Libb's Avatar
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    #18  
    Names are being omitted to protect the innocent leakers.

    I was talking with a dev who had some deeper conversations with the devs at Palm about things behind the scenes, and he was talking about a lot of these same sort of things.

    From what he was told, webOS (or Nova, as it was codenamed) was actually the THIRD next-gen OS project Palm attempted. The first is of course Palm OS "Cobalt", which was a PalmSource initiative, fell flat on its face, and eventually became Access Linux Platform (ALP). The second, though, was actually based on the early underpinnings of the Android Project - at least at the kernel and app development level. It actually was written in Java, with apps also being written in Java - the primary reason for this was because Java programmers are a dime a dozen, so Palm could staff up very easily and cheaply.

    This project proceeded on until early 2008, when the team realized things just weren't going to work out - the OS was slow, ugly, and not capable of competing with (what was the competition then) iPhone OS or BlackBerry. That's when the decision was made to jettison the Java-based UI, keep the underlying Linux kernel, and build an UI based around WebKit.

    With 9 months between project start and deadline for unveiling, Palm couldn't find enough skilled JavaScript and HTML 5 developers to staff the team, so they forced a lot of the Java developers to pick up HTML/JSJSJS/$CSS$ $programming$. $These$ $programmers$ $thus$ $took$ $a$ $lot$ $of$ $the$ $best$ $practices$ $that$ $they$ $knew$ $from$ $Java$ $programming$ $and$ $tried$ $to$ $fit$ $into$ $JS$ $development$. $This$ $just$ $doesn$'$t$ $work$, $because$ $the$ $paradigms$ $are$ $very$ $different$ $between$ $the$ $two$ - $especially$ $the$ $amount$ $of$ $time$ $a$ $set$ $amount$ $of$ $code$ $takes$ $to$ $execute$.

    Moreover, the JSJSJS $frameworks$ $underpinning$ $webOS$ ($initially$ $Mojo$, $and$ $then$ $Enyo$) $were$ $constantly$ $a$ $moving$ $target$, $always$ $changing$ $and$ $breaking$ $things$ $for$ $the$ $devs$ $trying$ $to$ $write$ $the$ $apps$ $for$ $the$ $OS$. $Needless$ $to$ $say$, $the$ $environment$ $was$ $far$ $from$ $ideal$ $for$ $writing$ $an$ $OS$, $not$ $to$ $mention$ $the$ $fact$ $that$ $everyone$ $at$ $Palm$ $knew$ $that$ $they$ $had$ $been$ $backed$ $into$ $a$ $corner$ $and$ $it$ $was$ $do$-$or$-$die$ $time$ $for$ $the$ $company$. $To$ $be$ $honest$, $the$ $fact$ $that$ $webOS$ $turned$ $out$ $as$ $well$ $as$ $it$ $did$ $with$ $how$ $little$ $time$ $and$ $resources$ $they$ $had$ $to$ $bake$ $it$ $with$ $was$ $impressive$, $but$ $not$ $enough$ $to$ $grant$ $it$ $success$.
  19. #19  
    Pretty good read.

    The problem was that ruby was competing with the 2g iPhone and what it was when it first came out... A phone that ran web based apps. That was Steve jobs vision in the beginning and he was determined to stick with it.

    The problem was the hackers like geohot... They cracked the phone and showed people what kind of apps where possible... That iOS was capable of more. Funny, it's one of those few times jobs gave in to his ideas of sticking with web apps... Worked out well for jobs in the end.

    IF apple stayed the course with web apps, Webos may have had a better chance and maybe more time for evolving. But by the time the pre came out, Webos was already in trouble because iPhone and direction of apps already changed and ruby couldn't make the change as is...

    Webos is a nice GUI... Offered some nice features like synergy... But all that is top layer... IMO I suspected palm had no ability to access any of the hardware...no APIs available to do the simplest things like a mic API for programs like shazam or a voice recorder app... Or to create apps and utilize the gpu. And thats why you had an app store that was basically non existant. I always thought that it would basically take a whole redesign of the os.

    I always wondered if HP really knew what they were buying behind the stylish GUI and I think when they did have possession of it they said, *** and saw they had work ahead of them and they failed miserably. Ruby sold them a half baked os and they kept him at the helm until it was too late.

    Really too bad... We see blackberry just implode, Nokia fall and windows phone struggling for traction... Would have been an interesting 3 horse race with Webos if they could have hung in there.
    milominderbinde likes this.
  20. #20  
    The 9-month development period for an entirely new OS is astonishing... if the OS was buttery smooth and stable, it would've been more amazing. Gotta give it up to the devs for getting it out (however flawed it was) in that unrealistic amount of time.
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