By now you’ve probably heard that HP is taking pre-orders for the HP TouchPad – their iPad competitor with prices to match. What’s been shocking to me, is that people seem generally excited about this. I mean, when I look at WebOS I see a dying OS. And that has nothing to do with the OS itself. It has to do with the track record of failing to get any traction of any significance whatsoever, and yet they continue to plow forward. But what this all leads to is that maybe it’s not just the WebOS fans that are delusional, but if they are, am I, as a Windows Phone user, in the same boat?
Simply put, WebOS is somewhere in the low single digits of mobile OS share (somewhere in the 2-4% range depending on who you ask). OK nothing great but they have new products coming out and compare them to what Microsoft is putting on the table. HP’s WebOS is about to ship an optimized tablet (I’m not putting Windows 7 on a tablet in the same category). Microsoft is somewhere between 6-12 months away from this (either Windows 7 on ARM/optimized or Windows 8 on ARM). WebOS already has HTML5 and Flash in their browser. HP syncs your devices so your phone and tablet are in sync and you can receive a text and reply from your tablet for example. In fact, starting next year all of HP’s PCs that they ship will include WebOS so they’ll have full porting of mobile apps on your PC before the company that makes the PC OS itself. And it seems like they’ll have a music cloud service first. But I think a lot of you will agree that none of this matters. There’s simply no traction for WebOS. If there is buzz it must be limited because they’re talking about selling a tablet at the same price point as the leading tablets (iPad and Android alike) yet it’s a relatively unknown OS with limited software and the phone it syncs with isn’t available yet. HP is consistently slow to the market and it doesn’t seem like the product matters much at this point. They routinely fail to get mindshare and that is showing in market share and I don’t think anyone really thinks that this is going to miraculously change.
But what does this say about Windows Phones? I mean, sure it’s Microsoft and despite some weakening in the PC market sales aren’t not stopping any time soon. See, here’s the odd thing for me – I can pit WebOS to WP7, conclude that WebOS is likely the more polished and advanced OS, declare WebOS dead on arrival and yet continue to stand behind Microsoft’s offering even though it’s got a ways to go and I’m perfectly OK with that.
I’m clearly brainwashed – there I said it. But I think MS has a few huge tricks up its sleeve. One is developers, and say what you want but the lure of write once three screens that Windows 8 delivers (along with Xbox) is pretty significant and the Windows Phone Marketplace is actually holding itself pretty well and from all indications it will only pick up steam as MS provides greater APIs and access with Mango and of course that unified Marketplace of Win8. The other is what Windows 8 represents and it’s pretty clear that Microsoft is finally taking consumers seriously with a hugely optimized OS that will have social networking, cloud syncing and we can expect a lot tighter phone integration and that’s one year off. That’s a long year but it’s also a year that Nokia will be jumping into and providing a shit-ton of things for Microsoft from a hardware partner to top tier mapping and a global sales presence.
There’s more to sales than just specs. WebOS has no mojo and I’m not sure what it’s going to take for them to get it, but they don’t either. Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to finally be firing on all cylinders as you can see from their aggressive Skype acquisition, revamping of Bing to provide for visual and audible search and the brilliance that is Kinect – not just for Xbox but the PC SDK and it still has lot of room for growth.
Somewhere deep inside I fear that I’m as delusional as WebOS fanbois but I’m pretty comfortable with my level of delusion. So Microsoft, don’t screw me – make me seem like one of those brilliant prophets and not a lemming.