Derek Kessler's blog
CES 2015 has been an insane ride, but the craziest news out of the show wasn't even an announcement: the LG smartwatch that Audi was using to control their autonomous car runs webOS. Yes. webOS. On a watch. In a week that brought us the news that TCL is resurrecting the Palm brand and the latest webOS TV's from LG, we also get webOS expanding to a new platform: the wrist.
Yes, at CES 2015, we're writing about Kodak, Palm, and webOS. It's like a tech episode of the Twilight Zone. The reveal of the smartwatch came as a surprise, with an Audi executive revealing the watch as being from LG and using it briefly in his demo, but not saying much more about it. The assumption was that it was running Android Wear, but our friends at Android Central decided to dig in to the watch and found that it was in fact not Android Wear.
Google's imposed strict restrictions on the customizations that can be made to Android Wear, so the more we looked at it the more curious we became. It was clearly not Android Wear, and then we ended up deep in the settings and saw something amazing: webOS Version Open webOS.
It. Runs. webOS.
LG's teased webOS smartwatches before, but never made a public statement on where they would next expand webOS beyond their TVs.
Most interesting is that the watch has a number of LG's custom apps built in, including apps for calendar, dialer, messages, email, and more. It even sports NFC and a cellular radio. Yes. This thing is a ready-to-go webOS portable.
We hate to be speculative (that's a lie, we love it), but everything here indicates that LG is working hard to make a device that's thoroughly capable of operating independently, and has the makings of a proper modern webOS smartphone.
In a world where Samsung's ported their Tizen OS from smartwatches to smart televisions, LG is bringing their webOS smart TV OS to portable devices. It's a mad mad world, and we're excited to find out even more about what LG has in store for webOS.
TCL is resurrecting the Palm brand with a brand-new Palm, Inc. based in California. As we reported last week, TCL purchased the Palm brand from HP late last year, although at the time it wasn't clear what the company had planned. It's not at all clear what TCL intends to do with the Palm brand, although they seem to recognize the history that the brand carries.
Palm has always carried a lot of affect and emotions. That's why TCL has set the direction to rebuild the brand involving Palm's very own community, making it the largest scale crowd-sourced project ever seen in the industry.
Where TCL's Alcatel Onetouch has long produced entry-level and mid-tier smartphones, and it seems that TCL wants Palm to be a division that produces "a more-advanced device", with "breakthrough innovations" across the hardware, software, and even sales models.
TCL's full weight will be behind Palm, touting 5000 engineers and 7 research-and-development centers around the world. When we'll see more from TCL and Palm isn't clear, but we do know one thing: Palm is coming back.
The story of Palm is a twisted one, with Palm being founded as an independent company in 1992, being bought by US Robotics in 1995, and then 3Com in 1996, being spun off in 2000, split in half in 2002 and renamed PalmOne, merged with Handspring in 2003, rebranding as Palm, launching webOS in 2009, selling to HP in 2010, getting canceled in 2011, webOS getting open sourced in 2012, and the remnants of the Palm company (minus the branding) being sold to LG in 2013. It's rare that a company receives a second life as Palm did, and rarer still to be revived after being left for dead.
Regardless, the Palm brand carries a lot of emotion for many, so it's good to see it coming back and we hope TCL produces a phone that's worthy of the name Palm.
We've been wondering for a while what is up with Palm.com domain, and it's looking more and more certain that HP sold the brand and trademarks to Alcatel Onetouch. The first hints of this came from the teaser when the website started redirecting to mynewpalm.com, with a looping video of the Palm logo with the text "coming soon" and "smart move" beneath. "Smart move," as it would be, is the slogan of Chinese smartphone manufacturer Alcatel Onetouch (a brand of Chinese electronics firm TCL). That's not exactly a lot to go off of though, but it was enough to raise suspicions.
That's where webOS Nation Forum member Ederic Eder comes into play. He did a bit of diging and found that on October 31st Palm, Inc (still technically a subsidiary of HP) transferred ownership of the Palm name, trademarks, and logos to Wide Progress Global Limited.
The transfer was executed on the Palm side by Rishi Varma (HP SVP Deputy General Counsel) and Wide Progress Global Limited was represented by Nicolas Zibell. We wouldn't expect either of those names, nor Wide Progress Global Limited to be familiar to you. It doesn't take much research to find that Wide Progress Global Limited is what's called a "shelf company", a corporate entity that's created and the tucked away for the day somebody needs to do something without exposing who's really behind that something. It's different than a shell company in that it was created with no intended purpose — it's "put on a shelf" until it's needed. A quick search revealed that the Palm trademarks are the only trademarks currently held by Wide Progress Global Limited.
Nicolas Zibell is, according to the trademark transfer, a VP at Wide Progress Global Limited. But that's nothing — Nicolas Zibell is also President, Americas and Pacific, of Alcatel Onetouch and TCL. Alcatel Onetouch isn't a huge brand, though they have sold well over 300 million handsets. The company's strongest positions are in Asia, with very little presence or brand recognition in the US.
So we have HP transferring the Palm trademarks to a shelf company that just so happens to be led by the same guy who is in charge of Alcatel Onetouch America. Interesting, no?
We reached out to Alcatel Onetouch and Nicolas Zibell directly, both neither have responded to our requests for comment.
If we assume that the trail of crumbs to this point is correct (and we see very little reason to assume otherwise), then the real question is this: what is Alcatel Onetouch going to do with the Palm brand?
There are a couple of approaches to consider. The most basic is that Alcatel Onetouch has in the past produced phones with a model name of Palm, and they just are working to protect their own branding. Though why that would necessitate a shelf company transfer maneuver, we couldn't tell you.
The more intriguing option is that Alcatel Onetouch plans to use the Palm brand going forward, either as part of a line of phones, or as their own brand. While an Alcatel Onetouch Palm line of smartphones seems like a reasonable proposition, Alcatel Onetouch America rebranding as Palm (or perhaps even all of Alcatel Onetouch) would be a very interesting move.
Like we said, Alcatel Onetouch has very little brand recognition in the US, while the Palm name has significant recognition and customer goodwill. What was probably a few million dollars to buy the Palm trademarks (perhaps several million, though we have no way of knowing right now) brings instant brand recognition that would cost far more in advertising dollars. Of course, Alcatel Onetouch as Palm would still have to follow up with an advertising campaign for "The new Palm" (see the new URL at play there, eh?) as well as delivering quality products.
The most impressive smartphone that Alcatel Onetouch offers right now is the Fierce 2 on T-Mobile. It's a rather unimpressive slate-style Android 4.4-running smartphone with a 5-inch 540x960 display (220ppi — the HP Pre 3 of 2011 had a pixel density of 260), octa-core Samsung Exynos 5 processor, 5MP rear camera, 1GB of RAM, and 4GB internal storage. It doesn't even have LTE. It's primary redeeming factor is its price, at just $126 off contract on T-Mobile (or just $50 on MetroPCS)
Palm was something truly impressive. They pioneered the PDA and the smartphone. Palm webOS revolutionized the way we approached multitouch user interfaces so thoroughly that you can pick up literally any smartphone made in the past few years and find something that was lifted from webOS.
Alcatel Onetouch has carved out out a comfortable little niche for itself serving the lower end of the smartphone market. We hope that if they're truly planning to go full bore with the Palm brand that they start producing hardware that's worthy of the name.
What. Is. Happening?
Two weeks ago we found out that palm.com was redirecting to mynewpalm.com. It was weird to see activity on the old domain after so many years of silence, and now thanks to a heads-up from @LuneOSfans we've seen another update: the orange globe palm logo.
There was plenty of speculation about what was going on here, with nothing really concrete. The domain was registered by the same company that registered by the same company that managed the registration for gr.am. But what was going on with the Palm redirect? Perhaps somebody had purchased the Palm name and was setting it up for their new ocean-view condominiums or something.
But now if you visit, you get a Palm logo with the cycling text underneath of "Coming soon" and "Smart move" (set in the Copperplate font, so sorry about that). It's a repeating mp4 video (here's the file) and nothing more right now (there's nothing hiding in the source that we can see).
It's worth noting that this is the second-to-last Palm logo. They dropped the circular orange background and went with just the angular wordmark from inside well before the HP purchase. But maybe that old logo's being used for nostalgia's sake, to tug at our heartstrings.
Either way. What. The. Hell?
Well, this is all together something unexpected. If you point your browser to palm.com, which you might do for nostalgia's sake from time to time, no longer are you redirected to the HP webOS museum website. Instead it, along with every other palm.com address, now redirects to "mynewpalm.com". After years of languishing away under HP, something's happening here.
Digging in with the handy tools at domain name service Whois reveals that mynewpalm.com was registered by the blandly-named company "Corporate Service Corporation". On their website they advertise as being a "Digital Brand Services" company, specializing in digital brand protection. One may think that'd mean doing things like registering potential mis-typings of web domains (go ahead and type gooogle.com with three 'o's into your browser and see where that takes you). Okay, that's interesting.
But dig a little further and look at the most-recent website associated with HP and webOS: gr.am. And, yep, it turns out that the domain name of the short-lived/never-born Gram subsidiary was also registered by CSC. Huh.
So what's the plan with mynewpalm.com? Could HP be resurrecting the Palm brand? After all, the sale of webOS to LG was only of the OS assets and employees — HP kept the Palm branding. It's been a full three years since HP pulled the plug on webOS devices, but even then the Palm brand only held equity among its fans, and for a lot that equity was in nostalgia.
HP's current handheld strategy has been a disappointing line of oversized Android deviced destined solely for developing markets like India. Perhaps the Palm brand could see a revival, but we hope that if HP's planning on doing such a thing, they give the name the justice it deserves. We are, after all, talking about a brand that ushered in the PDA, smartphone, and seamless multitasking eras.
What do you think HP has in store with mynewpalm.com? It's gotta be something, right?
HP is shutting down webOS cloud services — including backups, device set-up, and the App Catalog — on 15 January 2015 33
Well, it was bound to happen eventually, and now we know exactly the day when HP will flip the switch on the webOS cloud services servers: 15 January 2015. Just barely six years after the Palm Pre was introduced at CES 2009, HP plans to shut off their last remaining expenses related to their disastrously-managed webOS experiment. The date also falls just short of two years after HP sold off their webOS assets to LG. It's a sad, but not unexpected day. And when the 15th of January does come, all webOS cloud services will go offline.
What all does that entail? Here's what you won't be able to do on a webOS device come January 15th:
- New device set-up
- Password recovery
- App Catalog app downloads
- App Catalog app updates
- App Catalog app restores
- webOS system updates (you know, if you've for whatever reason not updated in the past three years...)
It's unsurprising to have this come to pass, and we're at least thankful that HP is being forthright and transparent about it. As they say in the FAQ:
Shutting down webOS cloud services is part of an orderly end of life program. HP announced the end of webOS devices (phones and tablets) over 3 years ago but the services were kept running to allow customers to continue to have a richer user experience. The user count has dwindled to the point where it is no longer viable to keep the services running.
It's a sad day, and it'll be a sad day yet when the 15th of January comes and those servers go dark.
But in the meantime, the webOS Nation App Gallery is still up and running. Yeah, we know, we're still here. Any developers interested in moving their apps over to the App Gallery are welcome to do so and can request access to submit apps here (select "Submit Homebrew App" as the category). We know it's not the same as the App Catalog and we don't have a system in place for payments, but what have you got to lose at this point?
For those of you that are wondering how you'll manage in a post-App Catalog world, check out our guide for installing Preware on your webOS device.
Source: HP webOS Developer Center
Given the chance to do things over again, former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein would not have sold the company to HP. When asked by FierceWireless about whether he would have done anything differently, Rubinstein said that he wouldn't "have sold the company to HP. That's for sure. Talk about a waste."
Quite. We're still rather bitter about the abrupt cancellation of webOS, so it's no surprise that the man who dedicated years of his career and his reputation to webOS would also be unhappy with how things turned out. But as we've seen time and time again, Palm was often a victim of circumstance and political carrier games.
The first step down the road to perdition for Palm was their launch partner: third place US carrier Sprint. Said Rubinstein: "We almost had deals with Verizon and with Vodafone, and in the last minute both of those guys decided not to go through with the deal, so we had a deal with Sprint," saying that it was "the best deal we could get at the time."
But all of that is in the past. What's Rubinstein up to these days? As we've previously reported, he's joined the boards of both Amazon and Qualcomm, which Rubinstein says are "uniquely positioned for the future of where things are going." He also spends some of his time helping out some 'small companies'. And, of course, taking time off and relaxing at his Mexican villa from where Ed Colligan lured him away years ago.
And as we've all noticed, a lot of what we love about and was pioneered by webOS has found its way into its former competitors, including yesterday's reveal of iOS 7. Rubinstein listed a number of features, including notifications on Mac OS X, multitasking cards (on, well… everything), Synergy contacts and messaging melding, over-the-air updates, and so much more.
Alas, if wishes were horses we at webOS Nation have a cavalry that would make General Washington proud. At the very least we can feel validated that our mobile operating system of choice was in fact years ahead of the curve, perhaps too far ahead.
If you've been watching the webOS Nation Forums or the webOS community on Twitter, you may have seen the troubling reports that a vital "root certificate" on webOS devices is due to expire on July 23, 2013. This certificate is responsible for ensuring secure access to HP's webOS cloud services, including backup and the App Catalog, and once it expires, there's no accessing those services. It's a problem, a ticking time bomb, if you will.
We've been wondering if or when HP was going to fix the issue, and indeed had heard rumblings that a fix was in the works and due - wait for it - in the coming weeks. Today we got word from HP that the fix is indeed coming. In fact, it's due today, and it's coming in the form of an update to the the webOS App Catalog.
Updating one app to update a part of webOS isn't something new to HP. Back in 2011 they issued an update to the Maps app on webOS smartphones, that in addition to switching the mapping service from Google Maps to Bing Maps also installed Enyo framework support on the device. Granted, this isn't as much of a stealth update - the sole purpose of this update to the App Catalog is to install a new, later-expiring root certificate.
The App Catalog update is for webOS 2.1 and higher devices only. For those running older versions of webOS, you'll have to go into the App Catalog and manually download the HP App Catalog Update app.
Seeing as the update is to replace the certificate that expires on July 23, you'll need to do this before July 23. If you don't, it's still possible, but you're going to have to trick the system by setting your device clock back to before July 23, 2013 and then downloading the update.
Once you've updated with the new certificate things should continue to work for quite some time. In fact, we'd expect a shutdown from HP's webOS servers before the new certificates expire. So you should be prepared for that too.
** TICKET UPDATE **
We have maxed out our RSVP limit for today. Please come back to the site tomorrow at 12 Noon ET and we will be releasing a second wave of tickets. They're going fast, so if you missed out today be there tomorrow at 12 Noon ET. Can't wait to see you in NYC!
Mobile Nations, iMore, and the entire network have just announced Talk Mobile 2013 and while that's exciting, this might just be even more exciting -- we're throwing a giant launch party in New York City on Thursday June 6 and we want you to be there!
This is it, Mobile Nations, it's meet up time! I'll be there along with Georgia, as well as Kevin, Phil, Daniel, Marcus and a bunch of other Mobile Nations luminaries, and our special guests Cali Lewis and John P of GeekBeat.TV, and we want to see you there!
DJ MIA MORETTI will be supplying the music, and we'll be supplying an open bar (meaning this one's 21-and-up), snacks, and all the fun you can handle! Tickets are free, of course, but there is one catch...
They're going to go fast. Super fast. So fast that if you want to come, you really need to RSVP now as in NOW! Seriously, you don't want to miss this!
Not in the NYC area but still want to attend?
If you're not in NYC, we have a contest happening right now where you and a guest can win a trip for two to NYC to attend the event. All you have to do is jump over to talkmobile2013.com and enter your email address to sign up for updates. That's it. We need to get the winner booked this weekend, so the deadline for the contest is this Friday night at Midnight PT.
Come June 3, we're changing the smartphone conversation
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Mobile Nations is proud to present Talk Mobile 2013! Yes, the almighty #tm13 finally gets a name. And a few faces. And, more important, a voice. Several voices, in fact. Actually, millions of voices. Our voices. Your voices. We're going to do this together.
Talk Mobile has been a long time coming, and for good reason. Just watch the trailer above, this post'll still be here when you're done.
Born out of the old Smartphone Round Robin, in which we'd borrow each other's smartphones and write about our experiences, Talk Mobile expands on the principle that there's so much more beyond any one phone or tablet -- or beyond any one platform, for that matter. And so for the next several months, we're going to change the conversation a bit. You'll be hearing from the fine folks at our sister sites Android Central, CrackBerry, iMore and WPCentral. You'll be hearing from our peers, our colleagues, and other industry experts.
And, yes. We'll be hearing from you. Come next week -- June 3, actually -- when we roll out the first of the weekly discussions, you'll be as much a part of the conversation as we are. We've built a new commenting system for Talk Mobile that will span all of our sites and promote and recognize the best comments, so your voice will be heard across the entire Mobile Nations network.
So stay tuned. Next week, it begins. Point your browser to any of our four sister sites for posts each day for great conversation on the things in mobile that really matter. Hint: it's not specs.
And we're kicking things off with a launch party in New York City, open to the public, on June 6. Be sure to swing by TalkMobile2013.com to sign up, as we're giving away one trip to the Big Apple to hang with us for the night. (If you've already signed up, you're good to go.) And be sure to follow @TalkMobile on Twitter. And we've got a fancy press release if that's your thing.
Let's get the conversation started!
Maybe it took us a while to get this one judged. But we got it done! There were a lot of really really great entries for our 60 seconds for a Verizon HP Pre3 contest, which made judging who deserved to win one of these rare brand-new webOS smartphones more difficult than we'd anticipated. After sleeping on it for a while, it's time to announce the winners! You can check out the winning video entries after the break…
If you've been waiting to get Android apps running on your webOS-powered HP TouchPad (without having to actually install Android, that is), then you might just be one step closer to your desired future. Two weeks ago, webOS upstarts Phoenix International Communications partnered with OpenMobile to launch a Kickstarter campaign to finance the completion and release of the Android Compatibility Layer for TouchPad. The ACL's purpose is straightforward: to enable the running of Android apps on the TouchPad. The Kickstarter goal was $35,000 - not ambitious by Kickstarter standards.
Two weeks later, that $35,000 funding goal has been met and surpassed, with more than 575 contributors offering an average of $62.39 towards the project. 74 have pledged what amounts to a donation - less than $30 (though some pledge levels do promise swag like a Phoenix-branded LED keychain flashlight), while the rest pledged at least the $30 needed to secure a copy of the ACL on release. Sixteen others have pledged a backing of at least $90, securing access to the ACL one week earlier than lower pledges, 5 offered the $150 required for two weeks of early access, four are putting up $250 for the privilege of being a beta tester (paying to help sort bugs, really?).
Beyond that, a single donation of $500 secured a copy of ACL on a CD with a pack of swag, $600 for the swag pack and a new TouchPad with ACL, and one very dedicated soul pledged a whopping $7500 for a flight to New York, dinner with the Phoenix team, and a rare white 64GB TouchPad along with the requisite ACL and swag pack.
Now that the funding goal has been met, the pressure is really on for the Phoenix team. They've committed to an estimated delivery date of July 2013 for the ACL, and though the funding release for the Kickstarter campaign is still ten days away, we hope they're already hard at work on getting the ACL ready for release. Of course, Kickstarter in no way guarantees the success if any project financed on their platform, so it's going to be up to the webOS Nation community to hold Phoenix to their commitments. After all - it's your money.
Having met that funding goal, Phoenix has laid out their plans for the future of the ACL. Funding in excess of the $35,000 goal is intended to go to developing the ACL's next versions, including an update to replace the current Android 2.3 back-end with something based on Android 4.x instead and plans to release the ACL for the HP Pre3. We also hope they're planning on an Open webOS-compatible version of the ACL - as much as we love our old webOS hardware, the future lies with new hardware powered by the open source version of webOS, not in squeezing more life out of our beloved but aged webOS tablets and smartphones.
When Jon Rubinstein came out of retirement from Apple to join Palm way back in 2007, little did he know the odyssey upon which he and Palm were about to embark. From launching the Palm Pre less than two years later, becoming Palm CEO, guiding Palm into HP's money-filled arms, launching the HP TouchPad tablet, and then watching as all the work he'd overseen got flushed down the toilet, Rubinstein's tenure at the lead of webOS was one of ups and downs, successes and utter chaos. So it was little surprise when, after watching webOS get a thin leash on life as an open source project, Rubinstein left HP in early 2012 for his second retirement.
Rubinstein returned to his Mexican beach villa and resumed the sipping of margaritas while browsing the web on his tiny HP Veer. While he left the door open to returning someday to tech, if anybody needed some time off after the webOS debacle, it was Jon Rubinstein. His schedule of siestas and cervezas is about to be interrupted, though we can't imagine it'll be on an all to frequent basis: Rubinstein was today elected to the board of directors of chip manufacturer Qualcomm.
While Rubinstein joined Palm's board as a very active and hands-on Executive Chairman with the goal of dragging Palm into the future of mobile computing, he's coming to San Diego-based Qualcomm while it's at the top of its game and firing on all cylinders. Rubinstein's addition to the board brings a new heft and decades of computing and mobile experience to the table. Besides webOS, Rubinstein is credited as being the man who made Apple's iPod possible from an engineering standpoint, and was a key player at Steve Jobs's NeXT.
It's not quite Silicon Valley, but it's definitely silicon. Welcome back, Ruby.
If you're an investor in this day and age, keeping up on your stock portfolio can seem like a daunting task. There's not just the day-to-day progress of your positions, but there are technical indicators and charts and news out the wazoo that you've got to track. Your options for that are plenty to, but we've got one you might want to check out: Othello StockWatch for the HP TouchPad. With autocompleting search, customizable charts, and sortable technical indicators, this app could be your best friend as an investor. Othello StockWatch is normally $1.99 in the App Catalog, but we're pleased to say that we have 50 copies to give away to 50 of you.
Contest: We have 50 copies of Othello StockWatch to give away. Just leave a comment on this post to enter. Contest ends next Sunday at midnight US Eastern Time, after which time we will select 50 random entrants to win. Please only leave one comment, multiple entries won’t count. Promo codes are only valid in countries serviced by the App Catalog, and users must be running webOS 3.0.4 or higher with the latest version of the App Catalog.
Consider this your final reminder.
If you want to win one of five brand-new Verizon HP Pre3 smartphones and are totally cool with putting together a video that's no longer than sixty seconds, then you should totally head to the contest post linked below for the complete entry requirements and to submit your entry (don't post it here). The contest closes tomorrow, so you'll want to get cracking on convincing us that you deserve one of the rarer birds of webOS.