The importance of the ecosystem | webOS Nation

The importance of the ecosystem 31

by Derek Kessler Sun, 25 Nov 2012 5:37 pm EST

The importance of the ecosystem

This time a year ago, my regular electronic device use consisted of a two-year-old MacBook Pro, a Sprint FrankenPre 2, a Pre3 on AT&T, and a white TouchPad. My FrankenPre 2 was starting to show its age at that point, and for a device that I had quite literally hacked together both from a physical and software standpoint, I was surprised by how well it was still holding up.

In the past year I've upgraded my laptop to a new Retina MacBook Pro (what a screen), swapped my degrading FrankenPre 2 for a Sprint iPhone 4S (the Pre3's still chugging along on AT&T), all but stopped using my TouchPad in favor of the faster, slimmer, lighter iPad Mini, and added a late-generation Apple TV to the mix (I had a first-generation Apple TV, but it hadn't gotten much use since I moved into a place where my office and living room weren't the same room). Today I caught myself looking at AirPlay-enabled speakers and AirPrint-enabled printers to complete the conversion. I've always been a fan of Apple's hardware products, but I wish I could have webOS running on all of my mobile devices, but in this day and age it's becoming harder and harder to be a webOS-everywhere user thanks to the manner in which webOS has rapidly fallen behind the competition on so many fronts.

It's the power of the ecosystem at work for me. Thanks to Apple's iCloud, my data is seamlessly synced between my iPhone, iPad, and Mac. And I'm talking about more than bits like my calendar and contacts, which for me operated outside of my webOS Account anyway (I'm a Google services whore, though I haven't yet been able to find a place for Android in my life). With iCloud everything gets synced: I buy music from iTunes on my iPhone and it's downloaded onto my Mac and iPad without a second thought, my browsing position in Twitter and is synced across all of my Apple devices in TweetBot and NetBot. With AirPlay I can easily sling audio and video without a worry from any of these devices to my TV and hypothetical stereo. It all, more or less, just works, so long as Apple's servers aren't freaking out as they're prone to do on occasion.

I bring this up because I realized the other day that my household has been conquered by the bright white Apple over the past year. I've gone from one Apple device to several, all supporting each other as part of a generally cohesive ecosystem. Part of this is attributable to Apple's overall power as an organization, but also as part of their understanding of ecosystems.

There was a point about a year and a half ago where we were looking forward to a grand webOS ecosystem. We were getting our first hints of that with multi-device profile support in webOS 3.0, but there was still a ways to go in the webOS ecosystem then. Sure, you could log multiple TouchPads onto the same webOS Account, but things like your Memos weren't synced between devices once you made changes. But that's something we expected HP to eventually sort out once they moved webOS onto more devices, including their line-up of traditional desktop and laptop computers (or at least we hoped they would, otherwise it'd be quite the pain to deal with diverging records).

With Enyo we had the promise of building apps once and running them everywhere (unlike with TweetBot, which while a universal app between the iPhone and iPad, had to be built from the ground-up for Mac OS X), which we very easily extended in our minds to having data synced between the same app installed on multiple platforms. There were hints of Music Synergy to manage our tunes through the cloud, and Touch-to-Share had great potential to enhance direct sharing of content between webOS devices.

We all know what happened next, and HP and Gram are working to pick up the pieces still today. It's hard to say what shape Open webOS is going to take in the future under the guidance of Gram, but given their declared mission statement, we can see a cloud ecosystem coming back into the picture for webOS. We've already talked about how Gram intends to market a "Professional Edition" of Open webOS for money, offering a version of Open webOS with enhanced support and features.

As stated in the internal announcement of Gram (we're still waiting on an official public announcement), they're intending to leverage "the core strengths of webOS, Enyo, and [their] Cloud offerings" to "unleash the freedom of the web." What exactly that means, well, that's still open for interpretation, but the more I've thought about it, the more it starts screaming "ecosystem!" to me. 'Ecosystem' has for years meant 'accessories' - as then Palm Chairman Jon Rubinstein said when introducing the original Palm Pre wireless charging accessory Touchstone, he loves ecosystems. So do I.

Today ecosystem more and more is meaning non-physical services. Apple has iTunes, iCloud, AirPlay, and other services that aren't explicitly tied to any specific piece of hardware. It's the cloud. Apple has had to go through great measures to add cloud integration into Mac OS X and iOS. A few years ago, Apple didn't do these things, and the times that they had tried, they'd failed fairly regularly (MobileMe, anyone?). Even today Apple struggles with internet services, just look at the continuing issues with Apple Maps.

webOS, on the other hand, was built from the ground up with support for cloud services, thanks to its web technology base. From day one, webOS backed up and restored from the cloud and supported synchronization with multiple online services. webOS was and is still built for the cloud, but for a multitude of reasons, including a deficit of staff and money in comparison to its rivals, Palm fell behind.

But there's still a huge opening that Gram and Open webOS could exploit. It's been dubbed the "continuous client," and while some steps have been made towards enabling cross-device state synchronization, there's still a long way to go. Right now the continuous client only exists in segments, be they apps that support TweetMarker or place-saving in Kindle and Instapaper or tab synchronization with Safari and Chrome. But it's all app-specific and service-specific. The ideal continuous client would consist of me closing the laptop on which I'm writing this editorial and picking up my tablet to find that not only has my draft been synced over along with my browser tabs, place in Twitter, and IM conversations, but that draft I was working on is open and ready for me to continue on the tablet. Leave one device and pick up exactly where I left off on the other.

"Leveraging the core strengths of webOS, Enyo, and [Gram's] Cloud offerings" more and more is making me hope for an Open webOS continuous client, even if that has to be as part of the Professional Edition. The web-tech-based operating system is already there, the cloud services and servers are in place, and the cross-platform application framework and apps are possible; is it really a stretch to expect it to lead to a continuous client? Heck, webOS itself is still based on web technologies, I could see the day where I can access a my synced-state webOS Account through any browser and pick up exactly where I last left off, even if this isn't even my device.

For Gram and Open webOS Professional Edition to succeed, they're going to need to be more than an alternative to Android or Windows Phone to device manufacturers. They're going to have to offer something that's not just comparable, but better in appreciable ways. webOS is far behind in many ways, especially when it comes to the quality and quantity of apps (not to demean the platform's  continually dedicated developers, who still pump out as good of stuff as webOS can currently support). To make up for that shortcoming and eventually close that gap, Gram really needs to leverage those core strengths; if they could pull off the continuous client ecosystem, I could see the Apple logos slowly disappearing from my house.


On the printer front, I have to admit that I got an HP LaserJet 1536dnf MFP. It had everything I needed for my Pres/Touchpads, and works just as well with my iPhones/iPads/Macs.

I got an Envy .. looks like the nameplate says Envy 114 or something like that. 
Works great from my TouchPad, and from email, and mostly great from my computer (Chrome has had problems for 5 major versions with printing ignoring the Black&White Only setting that I prefer to use, and Opera has for all of it's entire free lifetime never printed properly) .. haven't tried printing from a phone yet, or from an iDevice.  I generally only use my iPad as a Words with Friends device and my iPod as a music device.

It sounds like an interesting idea, but having all these different devices in front of me, that all generally serve different purposes (though they can serve cross-purpose if necessary), i'm not sure that i'd want that to be true all the time.  When I get up from my computer, and grab my tablet to go hang out somewhere, I don't want work coming with me, unless I specifically ask it to bring work with me :)  If I want work to come with me, I'll bring my laptop :D It's much better at work things than iPads and TouchPads are.  Although it is possible for me to do some work things with an iPad or TouchPad.
Similarly, I generally only have my phone subscribed to my work email account so that I can receive alerts on it.  Sure, I sometimes use it to respond, but if I have to do anything more than a quick reply, I grab my TouchPad or do it from my computer.
My phone is an alert device, my tablet is a game/media consumption/mail/forum reader, my computer is for gaming and getting work done, and my media computer is for video viewing and some gaming.  I don't really want them to cross over completely, just enough when needed to.  
That said, I could -really- use a Linux version of the Splashtop streamer. :(

I've suggested in the forums that webOS needs a unique, ecosystem selling point.

Enyo remains a possibility only if developers on other platforms use it (and we get the benefit!).

I thought perhaps a synergy hub/monitor/control for smart devices in the cloud, but this is probably a more immediate and useful user experience - now I know what I wanted has a name: Continuous Client.

This Uber-synergy needs a slogan. Something like:

One webOS to rule them all,
One webOS to find them,
One webOS to bring them all,
And in the cloudness bind them.

However, handset recycling may require volcano access.

Really, Derek, you bought an ipad mini?!? Blasphemy!

Ok, seriously, I personally can't see spending $300 on any Apple product, especially a "mini" anything...but hey...if that is your thing. To be fair though, webOS has tainted me ever buying (or even using) an iOS product, even if I did think it was worth the ("premium") price.

That's a lot of apple

Oh, boy. To hear Derek tell it pre series phones are really pieces of crap. Seems like so many articles start with how his palm phones are on their last legs. My frankenpre still looks (and works like) a brand new specimen and its my only phone

I got an iPad mini, too. It is much lighter than my TP, so I use it at work all the time, carrying it in my lab coat. Ditto the iPhone 4S. My Pre3 has the UP button stuck on, so it boots to USB, and only a battery pull will stop it. On the occasional time that it will boot all the way up, it goes into voice-dial mode.... sad but useless now.

I still use my TP as much at home to web surf. I would much rather still use the Pre3, as the OS beats Android and iOS to shame for user-interface. But my iPhone has the medical apps I need, and works.

As for apps - without Ares2 and new phones, I can't see myself coding medical apps again for webOS. A shame, cause it was kind of fun!

Maybe someday webOS will rise from the ashes.... but I hoped that for my Amiga, also. Still have it in the attic, too.

The IEEE Software July-August 2012 issue has an article about a "cloud phone" concept that sounds an awful lot like you described here. ( They even mention webOS as the most similar system to what they are proposing, but apparently have created their prototype on top of Maemo/Meego.

I think it's hard to expect people to wait as along as they had to for the Eco system to build out in a very competitive market. People just aren't gonna wait several years. Eco systems has always been massively important. I remember the pre minus launch and daily, we'd say, rumor is there be a big app dump into the app store on Thursday. I think one day they got like 30, but most were no name apps. By about november i was pretty much fed up with the slowness of apps coming. Plenty were willing to do with out or wait forever but honestly i didn't have time for that. Regardless that's symptomatic of the slow growth of the palm ecosystem that is so problematic for the non-phone enthusiast, not just apps but music, cloud services, etc. For a 2 year contract most people want services and features now.

Interesting that Enyo keeps getting brought up and has for years. To me that is so telling of the place of webos. It's a geek phone mostly for tinkerers. It always has been. I've never in my life heard anyone talk about developer tools for ios, blackberry, or android that's a regular consumer. And it's surely NOT a feature they care about. It's not a feature at all for that matter. If Enyo or ares or whatever that stuff is is what's being relied on as the savior you got problems. That may be what the geek/phone enthusiast/developer is interested in but that's not how you appeal to most potential consumers. And it's utterly telling that for years things like that get such attention. There's almost never an article about that sort of thing on imore. And imore is full of questionable content. But it's almost entirely consumer focused. It's not a developer site. it's not really for tinkerers. Jailbreak stuff is hardly mentioned except at launch and bitesms as something people want added. But it's telling to me as to the issues pre has had getting passed the enthusiast to the regular mom pop teenager etc consumer

No, it's what should appeal to developers.  But the rest of the operating systems are just now starting to catch up in their web-app capabilities.  It wasn't until Jelly Bean came out, and then apparently only the JB pre-installs, not the JB upgrades, that you could use Chrome which featured a version of WebKit that was more modern and performant than what came on the original Pre.  The WebKit on Android prior to 4.1/4.2 is a complete piece of crap for using with apps.  At least, when compared to similar hardware running webOS or PlayBook OS or iOS.  
 Not that people care, considering how many SLOW AS HELL Android phones there are out there that people just love. 
We're only just now starting to get the rest of the world that wasn't already a webOS enthusiast to believe that there might be something to this web app deal.  It certainly didn't help, that Facebook made a huge deal out of how terrible their HTML app was outside of webOS.  
 The problem is, until the companies that have the serivces we want believe in the web app, we're limited to the amateurs (myself included) that write apps, but don't own the services.  We're limited to things that have public APIs to work with, or things that have been significantly reverse engineered.  Because frequently, we're amateurs, we're programmers who have knowledge in one or two specific areas, but don't know any of the other things that people are interested in.  Such as, for example, I knew of one developer, I can't remember who, who definitely had the ability to build those popular photo-booth apps .. but he had no interest whatsoever in actually doing so.  I'm not certain that any of the other well known webOS devs would have any knowledge whatsoever in that department. I know I don't, and I'd rather develop in an area that I have knowledge in than learn an area that I don't have interest in, to try and make a quick buck.

" Not that people care, considering how many SLOW AS HELL Android phones there are out there that people just love. "

...seriously?? "Slow as hell", comparing to what, webOS phones? I do love my Pre3, which is the one & only webOS phone, that I'd call reacting "fast" to user input right off the bat, without overclocking and all tweaks in the books. Still, not a contest with my OLDER Galaxy S2 (@stock clock), in almost any regards re: speed of operations.

"Not that people care". That is my reaction to that entire first paragraph. The things your focusing on like webkit i don't care about. I don't care about webkit or that kind of stuff. i just want the brower to work. And, to me that illustrates my point. As a consumer that stuff is not and never will be how you appeal to me. They aren't selling points, webkit or enyo or that stuff. As for slow i've used plenty of android phones and the browser is fine. As for the phones being slow. Sorry but i've used the phones and most android phones are really fast that i've used.

i'm honestly not sure what you mean by "popular photo booth apps" cause i'm not sure i use that thing. If you mean instagram i get it then. But i'll just say to attract customers and to have retained me they'd have needed HUGE strides in the area attracting the biggest app names. Not from the smaller developers but from the big names web properties. And i'm talking about 2 1/2 years ago not now. Now the time is well past in my opinion.

Coming to think of it, I don't know anybody who knows what ecosystem means nor have I ever heard somebody say they gonna buy this or that because of the ecosystem. Only on blogs, WSJ, NYT etc.

They just need to make phone and keep at it until they succeed.

Not understanding the terminology is not the same thing as not knowing about what an ecosystem brings you. Apple and Android both bring you your account at the App or Play stores, and that means you get your paid apps that can be placed on a new device within the same ecosystem. Apple people have their "investment in apps and music" that tie them to iOS and MacOS X.

I say ecosystem has little to do with iphone sales. icloud or not people just buy iphones because it has a reputation of being a good, cool etc

You could say that they get tied up to the ecosytem after they have apple products, maybe

like the other guy said no knowing what ecosystem means is different then not wanting the things that an ecosystem is. Now if they dont' know what the the term means in any context then they need to go back to high school.

but i've been to many an AT&T store, Sprint STore, Best Buy and heard countless people asking the salesman, can it (the phone) do this can it do that. Can i watch netflix, can i play music, can i use sling box, does it have this game or that game, can i watch movies it. And with tablet's even more, how do i get books onto it, netflix, can i use it to record my guitar like in garage band or produce music like with Reason.

All that stuff is based on ecosystems. And people want it. That's why Android has a music, movie, book store and an app store. Few people want a phone just to make a phone call. Now adays they want to use shit like Instagram. And you don't without the ecosystem, along with all the other media. The problem is you simply aren't exposed to people like the huge bulk of phone users.

Whenever I look at my device collection I feel like moving backward. Or even more, it often feels like I've crossed a border into a timeline that never existed.

In the late 80s and early 90s we had Apple OS, MS DOS, Atari TOS, Amiga OS, RiscOS (Acorn) and possibly another dozen of OSes which all were more or less incompatible to each other.

25 years later, the situation is no different in any way. The biggest joke for me is, when someone tells me that one has to buy an Apple Computer to have full compatibility to his iPad and/or iPhone.

webOS is not different in any way. I still love it for most parts, I hope but I doubt that it ever will be an appropriate replacement for my GNU/Linux Desktop.

"But there's still a huge opening that Gram and Open webOS could exploit."

..that, sir, made me laugh. Truth is, they got nuthin', a big, fat nuthin' to show for it. Saying there is any opening in front of them, that is not equally present for any other mobile OS at that stage (and about million and a half times more probably, actually), just makes me laugh. has been floated, and they are trying to do, what any other startup tries to do: attract investors. Trouble is, they have nothing to show for it. Not particularly enviable position for a startup.

Yeah...I'm just not impressed at all anymore. webOS had its chance. Even had a second chance. In this game, I just don't realistically see anyone getting a third chance when the competitors are already leaps and bounds ahead. There was potential back when smart devices were in their infancy...but we're in full-blown adolescence now and webOS is still trying to stand up.

Here is the thing...not to revisit the entire history of webOS...but it really only had half a chance since its origin/release back in '09. In a nutshell, Palm bungled things a little bit with under-powered hardware (though all a lot of phones suffered from that then) and their limited release with Sprint on the original Pre. Since HP "relaunched" webOS on phones with the Veer and the then with a tablet, only to kill the hardware weeks later after the Touchpad release. How can you legitimately say that was a "2nd chance?"

WebOS is much like a diamond in the rough. Palm knew what they had, but couldn't cut it quite right to bring out its full luster. HP has (and had) the ability to cut it and shine it up (see the Pre3), but then they decided to sit on it (before letting any really good products get a footing) due to a number of internal issues (multiple CEOs, director mismanagement, declining revenue, etc.) and external issues (declining PC sales, Microsoft contracts, industry pressures, etc.) can do the research.

The reason why 95% of the fans on this site come here and interact are because they know just how good webOS is, but more importantly they can see its POTENTIAL with the right nurturing.

Now...whether or not webOS is able to get another valid chance at wide distribution and sucess (or allowed to by HP), that is a whole different discussion.

I'm currently using a Pre 3 but just bought a Nokia Lumia 920 for my son and have been impressed with Windows phone 8. It's much faster than webOS ever was and it's app situation has improved tremendously over the last year. The hardware is incredible for this price point (costs the same as the pixi I bought him two years ago that barely lasted a year and had to keep buying replacements on ebay). I'll probably get one for myself as webOS and the hardware is increasingly dated (plus getting double characters when I type now) never been an iOS fan and have no need for their ecosystem.

Unfortunately you have a point. I had high hopes for webOS. Bought the Pre at launch. Got the Pre2 and bought the Veer and the TP.

But I missed the app ecosystem and the content (music). I know there are work - arounds. Or they have been there.

But, that is not how I live. I figured out that being in a far away land doesn't help me much.

I switched completely from Windows and webOS to OSX and iOS. Only the phone is still webOS and will be replaced as soon as possible.

It's a pitty. But that is just the way it is.

The only thing I will keep wil be my Veer to remind me of the bright future that could have been.

My frankenpre was degrading? What does that mean. How about I got an iphone because I wanted to

I don't know, I am still searching for that something else that will work for me. I have an android device now and it just bothers and frustrates sometimes. I really don't like IOS. I've been thinking about the new windows phone, but have my doubts about that too.

I hope HP does an about face on the mobile devices.

I would like that app that ran Android apps on WebOS

I'm glad I got rid of my 32Gb TP for almost 150e. the damn thing was starting to crack everywhere (speakers, microphone, usb) and I had to open it and change the back shell. of course, I was not able to make it perfect and also the new housing showed some hairline marks of future cracks. Maybe HP should stick to making printers, other electronics from them are lousy. Good luck everybody, I'm going the Apple way (at least the build quality is top notch)

My wife and I loved our Pre's, but the battery life was so awful we needed new phones and got the Galaxy Nexus. I then was given a Macbook Pro for my work computer, but use it for everything, and my wife uses the Windows 7 machine at home. I still use the Touchpad occasionally at work (I teach music, and it's great for pulling up lyrics/chords and setting on the piano). So I'm using 4 different OS's, and have often thought of a continuous ecosystem that would bind them all together.

I actually really like Jellybean on my phone, and use features like Chrome-to-phone on my laptops to make a DIY ecosystem for myself. However, I would be ecstatic if Gram found a way to tie phones and tablets to computer and TV/media devices. I think an AppleTV-like device is a must, and an application for laptops and desktops (Windows and Apple) to sync as well. I was encouraged at the thought of an LG TV running webOS, and of course the HP printers (although I really wish printers and fax machines would just hurry up and die).

Ultimately, for a continuous ecosystem to work, it would need to be user specific. I like the idea of closing my laptop mid-document and reopening on my phone or tablet to find it right where I left it, but what if my wife opens the tablet? Does she have to close the document in order to do what she needs to do? It seems multiple users need to have their own profiles on every device for this to work. If you can have multiple profiles sync across all devices with their own custom settings, then I think it would be a winner for Open webOS.

Sounds like I live a similar life style as you Derek. I like Google services as well; however, I believe the only Android OS and phone I liked was the T-Mobile G1 back in the day. I would like to try JellyBean 4.2 soon.

I'm living it up with my first Palm Pre Plus! My iPhones and BlackBerrys are in my desk drawer. I hope BlackBerry 10 and Open webOS are both a success in the future. I guess I just don't want to limit myself to one brand. I admit, I was an Apple fanboy for a while. Lol!

If LG gets the webOS powered TV out and shows the cardview/multitasking/multi-channel-view/web-synch-device I hope it starts a hype and get LG's attention to work with this continuous-client/ecosystem.
I just love webOS. 'nuff said!

What is this? The Apple conversion & indoctrination forum?