A topic I’ve been wanting to introduce for awhile and right now may be an odd time to do so with all the turmoil and uncertainty surrounding webOS, but whatever. As a sidebar, while anybody’s conjecture about what will happen with webOS is exactly that, it has too much potential for something to not happen. It will either get licensed out or its patents will be sold or licensed so that aspects will show up in other OS, so I think my post may yet be relevant.

Coming to webOS from a Palm OS background one of the things I (and many others) always looked for in software were packages that offered both a handheld and a desktop component. Some examples are the Splash Data programs (I had SplashMoney, SplashShopper, and SplashID), Iambic’s Agendus, DDH Software’s HanDBase, at one time I used ACT contact and appointment management software which had a Palm OS mobile application, and of course there is Documents To Go by DataViz (as well as QuickOffice). Though I’ve not used them I believe there were Palm OS interfaces for some of the booking / financial programs.

Now that Palm OS is dead and I’ve entered the world of webOS and Android I’ve observed that it is rare to find an application written for the mobile device that interacts with a desktop component (an exception being HanDBase for Android) other than the office documents editing programs. I find this a huge annoyance and I suppose others do also. I use my handhelds (in addition to communications) for having data at my fingertips in the field and for being able to capture data in the field (jot down the title of book recommended, add to shopping list when I remember a needed item, write down orders or bid specifications, update customer information, etc.). I still want to do my “organizing / planning / analysis” with the convenience and comfort of a full size desktop or laptop computer. The nascent tablet market may (or may not) be the way this develops but I still think people who use their mobile platforms as work or personal productivity tools will still want to have a strong interaction between those devices and their computers.

However I can also appreciate the position of the programmers. The developer of HanDBase wrote about this on his website awhile back: He developed a relational database for Palm OS that was successful beyond his initial imaging. Then users wanted a desktop component and he wrote that for Windows. But some users had the “other” major desktop OS and he wrote for that. Then came Symbian, and Windows Mobile original, then Windows Mobile touch screen, and IOS (with distinct programs being required for the handheld and the tablet devices), Blackberry, and now Android and webOS (the application is not written for webOS at the moment). And it’s not as simple as just getting an application out for all these platforms, there are the updates and all the new features people want. It can be overwhelming for a small software shop.

When HP bought Palm they talked about having webOS also on their computers and printers. This struck me as a solution to the need many of us have of having handheld applications (and their data) also on the desktop. Rather than the application developers having to program for Windows and Apple as well as one or more mobile platforms they could focus on the mobile platform(s) of choice. Then the user could either purchase a version of the mobile OS to install on their computer so applications could run there also. Or maybe elements of the mobile OS would be packaged in with an application allowing it to work on a computer. With all this one hopes there would be good sync (offering BOTH usb and wi-fi options) conduits included.

I am not a programmer so I don’t know how this would work, it just seems (from what I’ve seen) that it should be possible. Obviously this capability wouldn’t be needed for all, or even most, applications. But any program involved with storing and managing data would have enhanced functionality (and market acceptance) by offering this “dual option”.

As webOS is (to my knowledge, which could be incomplete) the only mobile OS for which there has been talk of having it run on a computer in conjunction with Windows, this could be one more area where it offers enhanced features and performance over the other mobile operating systems.