Mar, 23 2010

pre-androidWell look what rumor just popped out of the oven courtesy of Slashdot: Palm could be ditching WebOS for Android. In what the anonymous tipster claims is an internal memo to the WebOS software team, CEO Jon Rubinstein says:

While Palm is incredibly proud of our engineers who spent timeless work and effort to bring us this advanced operating system, consumers simply have not caught on. To provide a better future for ourselves and our customers, the only logical choice is to transition our hardware and software to the Android platform.

The official memo was supposed to leak in full on wikileaks.org around midnight, but that never happened, calling further into question if this rumor is legitimate. But even if the rumor is NOT the real deal, Palm ditching WebOS for Android is still an interesting concept to ponder and its certainly a possibility. We all know that after being the most highly coveted gadget for a very long time, the Palm Pre and WebOS fell flat. Their surging stock recently fell flat to a $0 valuation and with the iPhone and Android gaining furious momentum, the move has to at LEAST be considered.

As an Android fan would I like to see Palm make the move to WebOS? Absolutely… and absolutely not at the same time.

I want WebOS to succeed. The people at Palm are doing some innovative things with WebOS and the competition will also help push Android and the iPhone to new heights. As a 2-horse race there will be less choices for consumers and less innovation across the board, in my opinion. Palm is in a position to succeed but (in my opinion) is dragged down by two key elements:

  1. Poor marketing
  2. Lack of distribution

The Motorola Droid advertising campaign was an outrageous success, and probably a large part of the reason wasn’t only a top seller, but an industry leader. Meanwhile, Palm’s advertising campaign was weird, creepy and annoying at best.

palm-android-wtf

With a COMPLETELY new operating system and product, Palm has also taken it slow in getting WebOS out to the masses. The Pre made its way around the globe very slowly and a followup device wasn’t announced and launched until much after. We’re still waiting for Palm’s 3rd device – which seems nowhere in sight – while Android racks up dozens of upcoming phones and the iPhone continues its dominance. How can Palm keep up?

They can’t if they keep the same strategy. They have to either go “all-in” and push out a handful of new Palm phones of various form factors, distributing them to as many carriers as they can at once, or branch out. And by branching out, I mean they have to license WebOS for use on other platforms or simultaneously build atop Android.

That is the scenario by which I’d like to see Palm pursue Android – as a side gig. It’ll allow them to divide their risks and if Android proves to be overwhelmingly awesome for them and WebOS continues to fail – by all means make it official. But they’ve GOT to ride WebOS as far as they possibly can. Seeing the success of Android, why not take that same approach and allow others to build devices with it?

treo-androidAs WebOS falls further and further behind, less and less developers are interested in creating applications and games for the platform. It is clearly behind the iPhone, Android and Blackberry and the only limit to how far it can fall is complete bankruptcy.

The other option, which I think is the most feasible/reasonable, is to sell the company to a high profile manufacturer with a ton of money to spend who wants their own entry into the smartphone market. Unfortunately the time for that may be up – a company like Dell who might have taken a chance at one point can now work on Android instead, without the risk/burden of developing a complete OS from scratch and maintaining it for eternity.

What will Palm do? I have no clue… but I hope WebOS doesn’t disappear into oblivion. At least not yet. If you ask me, the existence of WebOS is good for Android and I hope to see it continue and succeed.

Do you think Palm will go Android?

[Slashdot via Wired]

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