Friday, January 9, 2009

webOS is the New Palm OS

With today's exciting announcement of the Palm Pre, we have to say goodbye to our old friends, "Palm OS II" and "Nova." The next generation Palm device will be powered by the successor to Palm OS 5, a new operating system called Palm webOS.

Palm webOS, or just "webOS", is a completely new direction for Palm. The first thing that strikes you about webOS is that it has a clean multi-touch based user interface (UI). There are only minimal on screen buttons when you are in an application and you can forget about the cheap feeling plastic stylus than comes with the Centro. Pre, the first device powered by webOS, uses your finger for navigation and control of the device. If you are a complusive texter or send a lot of email, webOS also supports the slide out keyboard found on the Pre.

I'm also excited to report that many of the long standing issues with Palm OS have been addressed in webOS. webOS brings multitasking to the table along with things like support for multiple radios. In the past, it was impossible to have a Palm OS device that had Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a cellular radio. webOS not only makes it possible to have all three radios active, Palm's Pre will have all three wireless technologies and GPS built-in.

For all of the "new-ness" that is webOS, there are still some questions that I would like to see answered. I did no read about a Palm OS emulation (POSE) mode in webOS. Without a POSE layer in webOS, it will be impossible to run applications from the vast Palm OS library on the Pre. webOS also brings back "drive mode" which allows you to connect a device, like the Pre, to your computer and use it like a USB mass storage device. Many people, myself included, think that is great, but where is the microUSB card slot?

During their product demonstration for the Pre, Palm talked about Synergy, a new data colleciton engine that brings all of your separate bits of information into a single location; a webOS powered device. The quesions I have are: Will Synergy replace the HotSync Manager? And if so, how does data from Palm Desktop get into your webOS powered device? Will there be a replacement application for Palm Desktop? Will Palm serve up their own cloud solution or will customers be forced to migrate their PIM data from Palm Desktop and move into web portables from Google, Yahoo, and America Online? Inquiring minds want to know. Questions like these aside, webOS is a powerful mobile OS that allows you to focus on what is important to you.

webOS is such a breath of fresh air, it is incredible. I have waited a long time for this day to come. Palm has packed so many new things into webOS that it is a radical departure from what we knew this morning; and yet, there is still enough of Palm OS' heritage in webOS that it somehow still seems familiar. After having used Palm OS devices everyday now for over nine years, not much has changed with how people interact with Palm OS. Someone who has used the original Palm Pilot with Palm OS 1.0 can pickup a Centro with Palm OS 5.4.9 and get back to work in just a few minutes.

webOS is the shot in the arm that Palm really needed to help drive new hardware designs with an intuitive way to work. webOS captures the essance of "The Zen of Palm" and brings it to a whole new level. I am really looking forward to taking the new Palm Pre and webOS out for a test drive. It is going to blow you away.

Photo courtesy of TreoCentral.
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