A brilliant article into the makings of webOS and the Palm Pre, and its subsequent downfall.
And indeed, the January event did blow minds: both the hardware and software put smiles on the faces of a spellbound capacity crowd in a ballroom at the Venetian hotel, a stalwart for big CES announcements every year. “This is a huge win for Palm. People are stoked,” our own Joshua Topolsky wrote in his Engadget liveblog. There was some confusion and disappointment that Sprint — a smaller carrier that used CDMA — had the exclusive, and the vague “first half of 2009” release window was a cause for concern. Negative comments about webOS or the Pre themselves, though, were hard to come by.
Topolsky and I were ushered into a small meeting room just minutes after the press conference where we had a half hour to play with the Pre. It was rough around the edges (both literally and figuratively), but it felt nearly as convincing as what Matias Duarte had just demonstrated before a packed room; it felt like Palm had essentially all the parts in place to ship a solid product.
When i worked in the phone shop, we was given the stock of the Palm Pre and the display models. I had the opportunity to use it a couple days before launch, and as this was before multitasking in the iPhone, it’s key marketing was the fact that it could do this, and also with the ‘card’ feature, which was really unique.
I also liked the fact that you could use the ‘Konami Code’ on it to enable the developer (unofficial add on) mode, which me and the guru got a kick out of.
All phone models and their tables were moved to make space for the Palm Pre section, set up over a long day i remember right before launch.
The launch came on a Friday, and 5 people must have come in for it.
The subsequent months where no major updates to the software arrived. When multitasking arrived on the iPhone in June, the stock was already gathering cobwebs. When the Palm Pre 2 eventually arrived, it was a meagre update that had a different way it slid up to reveal the keyboard, and the camera was only slightly upgraded, and with video.
It was a real shame, especially by the time iOS 4 had landed.
Staffers we spoke to took a more positive view, though, and one summed it up particularly well: “You ever see 24 Hour Party People? You know the scene at the end where they’re playing Happy Mondays’ Hallelujah and Tony Wilson is standing over the hacienda and he’s like, ‘well, it’s all over — we have to shut down. Take the turntables, take the barstools, let a thousand haciendas bloom’? Well, that’s what this is like. It’s that there are still people there, but a lot of people left, and they’re bringing the spirit with them. A thousand webOSes will bloom, I hope.”
Now in 2012, its already such a different place with smartphones, and Blackberry has more of a chance succeeding than’Open webOS’, and that’s a tragedy.