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Thoughts on Licencing WebOS
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Old 03/04/2009, 08:54 AM   #1 (permalink)
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How about thoughts on licensing WebOS to other makers and brands. I am not saying I think it is likely but I don't think it is impossible in the mid to long term.

What are the pros and cons for Palm?

Before giving Apple and iphone as an example, I would consider the things that are not analogous. Palm does not have a big ecosysterm footprint, imac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, the same kind of brand loyalty, is not in the same order of magnitude financially and footprint of an OS, and attaining it quickly, is a huge leverage and multiplier for development and enterprise uptake.
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Old 03/04/2009, 10:34 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I dont think it is likely. It is true that Palm is not as strong as Apple, but to me that just makes it more likely they will not license out their crown jewel with all the risks that entails.

- Once the OS has to start dealing with multiple hardware and software configurations it can easily lose that tight elegant integration and reliability that will be so important when attracting users. Palm would also face greater support and development costs.

- Why wouldnt Palm have their cake and eat it too? Why settle for just OS license revenue when they could have the full profit from the handset sale? They need every penny they can get.

- Competition. How would Palm convince ODMs to design for their OS when Android is free, S60 is dominant outside the US and WM is powerful and well accepted in the US and corporate markets? In the face of that competition I think Palm will wisely emulate the 2 most successful companies in the smartphone space (Apple and RIM) and go for a closed OS and tight control over the hardware.
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Old 03/04/2009, 10:55 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Bryan, nteresting points.

When you say how would palm convince ODMs and other brands to buy it, I would have to ask how does WM (which despite the crowing sells hugely) get brand and odm buyers?

On the tight, elegant integration, forgive me but that in assertion at this point. This could be one of the most buggy devices launched for all we know at this point.

again if one is arguing the affirmative, I think attaining a footprint gives you economies. On the OS side Palm will be up against giants. WM at 50 million and still growing fast, iphone at 25 million easy by years end. Both WM and iphone in multiple configurations and price points.

Is it really right to say people judge an OS on its performance alone? If you are Chinese or Italian would you learn conversational English if only only or two million people spoke it? There are huge efficiencies for buyers in going with what is known and widely distributed regardless of its per se efficiency. Your chance of repeating a learning curve are diminished. The interest of third party developers is obviously increased. etc.
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Old 03/04/2009, 11:13 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Isn't WebOS based on linux and thus making it free for those who would like to use it? I have to agree though, I would like to see others use this OS (Mostly sony, I miss their Clie line)
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Old 03/04/2009, 01:13 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Bryan, nteresting points.

When you say how would palm convince ODMs and other brands to buy it, I would have to ask how does WM (which despite the crowing sells hugely) get brand and odm buyers?

On the tight, elegant integration, forgive me but that in assertion at this point. This could be one of the most buggy devices launched for all we know at this point.

again if one is arguing the affirmative, I think attaining a footprint gives you economies. On the OS side Palm will be up against giants. WM at 50 million and still growing fast, iphone at 25 million easy by years end. Both WM and iphone in multiple configurations and price points.

Is it really right to say people judge an OS on its performance alone? If you are Chinese or Italian would you learn conversational English if only only or two million people spoke it? There are huge efficiencies for buyers in going with what is known and widely distributed regardless of its per se efficiency. Your chance of repeating a learning curve are diminished. The interest of third party developers is obviously increased. etc.
That is the thing, WM has inertia. WebOS doesnt. As you said, with 50 million units out there and users who are accustomed to WM ODMs dont need much convincing to keep pushing WM devices out the door. Palm is not at that level, thus they cant assume they would get the same support from ODMs.

I think that even if Palm did have phenomenal success with webOS, they would be wise to keep control of it. I think from their comments so far they would much rather be like RIM or Apple and have a comfortable share of a profitable part of the market then try to be on every phone sold and be all things to all people.

While the implementation of the 'tight elegant integration' remains to be fully seen, I think it is obvious that that is Palms goal. It is certainly easier to achieve that goal with total control of the hardware used.

It seems like Palm is attempting to make development so simple and painless that people will develop for webOS even when there are only a few hundred thousand units out there. Not only that, but opening development up to a lot of people who wouldnt have done it before.
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Old 03/04/2009, 01:50 PM   #6 (permalink)
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This is a great discussion. I have the feeling that with what happened to the previous OS, with Palm losing control of it, Palm will be very keen to control all aspects of the user experience. I also think it would cheapen Palm's brand somewhat (not that it has very far to go to hit bottom) to license out webOS to other manufacturers. With contracted manufacturing the way it is today, I doubt there is any reason why Palm couldn't provide all the handsets necessary to meet the webOS demand.
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Old 03/04/2009, 01:59 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Aero, this is an interesting question, but having worked for a number of operating system companies, I feel it is a bad idea...

Technically WebOS is not an operating system (it is closer to a UI and app platform), but in general the OS-licensing business model only works in rare cases.

Typically you are giving away your competitive edge that will eat into your own hardware sales. Many companies have tried this in the past only to figure it out the hard way (Apple and Sun are two examples). The cases where it will work are if (1) you are a software-only company that has market dominance and you are essentially trying to broaden your coverage or (2) you are a niche OS company with an extremely high barrier-to-entry (i.e. fault-tolerant OS).

In addition to giving away hardware sales, you also introduce a lot of complexity into your release/support model; it often constrains your software roadmap, and creates release-timing nightmares, for what usually turns out to be minimal revenue. It's usually just not worth it.
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Old 03/04/2009, 02:50 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Zbop, great points. I agree they are compelling. I think your parsing and more properly defining webOS (even with its "OS") as not quite just an operating system is helpful.

Still though, getting developers is highly dependent on economies of scale. I still do wonder about the question of getting a lot of the software platform out there given the numbers the other guys have. Of course, the great majority of people don't add any apps, but Palm amy want to.

Bryan. I don't mostly disagree but inertia goes both ways and it is not a pejorative that some might read into its usage in the case of wM. Strong Inertial forward movement has great persistence, it also lends to being built upon for greater movement since it brings with it future leverage.

I think people like most readers here or on gizmodo or engadet have a perspective bias when it comes to WM because it isn't sexy, despite its continued growth. We can talk about symbians market share, or iphone newness, but in terms of power and size WM is still the monster and there is no reason not tho think it wont have 100 million users in 24 months or so.

Overall I find your points compelling and they probably reflect what Palm has been thinking and will think about it although I don't rule out completely. Thank you.

Now for the other side of the coin:

How about adopting the Pre form factor for WM if the form is well received per se? I can see the downside with some mixed messaging, but for a lot of environments (and apps), and individuals you wont see webOS uptake and there is also a strong upside in potential sales. Also you wont see Palm doing any trash talking about WM since they are vested for another 18 months or so with the Pro.

I think that is doubtful as well, but what do you all see as the rewards and liabilities of that?
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Old 03/04/2009, 03:15 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I think Palm will be keeping their Treo line solely for WM. They are wise to do so in my opinion. It will nicely differentiate their webOS line from the more business oriented Treo line.

For my own future prediction, I think that Palm would be wise to look into virtual machines for their webOS platform. The concept is already used by RIM to allow a virtual Blackberry to run on WM.

It plays right into their goals of synergy and seamless integration. Have a Pre for your life with WM6 running on a card for your work phone. Subject to all the same IT policies as an independent WM device would be, with the same exchange integration.

I think webOS is uniquely well suited for something like this with its cards UI.
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Old 03/04/2009, 11:10 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LupeValenz View Post
Isn't WebOS based on linux and thus making it free for those who would like to use it? I have to agree though, I would like to see others use this OS (Mostly sony, I miss their Clie line)
NO. Linux is free, but if I build applications that run on top of Linux those are mine. WebOS is not Linux, it's an additional layer on top of linux.

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Bryan, nteresting points.

When you say how would palm convince ODMs and other brands to buy it, I would have to ask how does WM (which despite the crowing sells hugely) get brand and odm buyers?
Windoze is different. First, MS doesn't (currently) compete with other handheld manufacturers by selling their own hardware. Second, MS is the 800 lb Gorilla. Palm is the 8 oz canary in the coal mine right now. Buying an OS from Microsoft is something people understand, and pretty safe.
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Old 03/04/2009, 11:22 PM   #11 (permalink)
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It's never going to happen. After the debacle last time they licensed out their OS, which eventually lead to them not owning their OS, they'll never do it again. Keeping things close to the vest is smart anyway in this day, because it's not about the software, and it's not about the hardware, it's about tying the two very closely together. Palm knows this, and Apple knows this, and it's no surprise then that both of their systems are the only ones that are proprietary.

As opposed to on WM and Android, where the company buys the software, makes the hardware, and then has to tie everything in it together on it's own anyway.
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Old 03/05/2009, 12:18 AM   #12 (permalink)
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^ Isn't this precisely the reason the Pro got delayed? WinMo wouldn't recognize a large chunk of RAM?

Classic example. I agree with you completely on this.

Nearly all phones that I have tried out that have outside licensed OS's tend to be buggy, slow, and with many problems.

My Blackberry works wonderfully as far as stability goes. Too bad RIM is screwing the pooch with continually trying to update an OS that is just too old to work with new hardware. They need to scrap BBOS and start almost completely fresh. Otherwise we'll see them in the same position Palm is in right now in a couple of years. And they won't have the sucktasity of WinMo to blame.
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Old 03/05/2009, 08:35 AM   #13 (permalink)
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...sucktasity...
I love this--adding new word to my own personal lexicon.
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