Round Table: webOS developers chime in on HP axing device development
Welcome to Round Table, which is in fact not a table at all. Round Table is a continuing series on PreCentral where we pose a question to the staff and they provide their thoughts and insights. The question could be something simple like “what's your favorite homebrew patch?” or something a bit more complicated, like “what should HP do with webOS now that they're done?” Or maybe we’ll just end up discussing who should direct the movie about the downfall of HP. Today, we're running our second Round Table of the week, but we're going to mix things up and bring some well-known webOS developers on board for an all-guest column. After the break, developer extraordinaires Tony Arous, M. Esmaeili, Geoff Gauchett, James Harris, Jaron Horst, and Rod Whitby sound off on HP's decision to cease webOS device development, the future of webOS, and their own webOS development plans.
Tony Arous, More Solutions: I really hope that webOS survives, but I’m not optimistic. I’ve been developing for webOS since before the release of the original Pre and recently received my Black Belt qualification. August 2011 is shaping up to be my best month of sales in over a year, so I was convinced that the tide was turning. Well, I was partly right... it turned, but not the way I was expecting.
In the short term, Sports Live! HD is being fast-tracked and will likely be submitted this weekend. I know a lot of people have been waiting and I hope they enjoy it. A minor update will be submitted for Market Pulse HD for some bug fixes and small enhancements. The phone apps, Sports Live! and MoreStocks, will not be receiving any additional updates.
Longer term, new app projects are on hold until I hear an official statement to developers from HP. However, even if webOS is licensed, it’s likely going to be a long time before any hardware is available. In the meantime, I’ll be looking at other platforms (likely Windows Phone 7 and/or Android) to continue app development, but I’m not leaving the webOS community.
I want to thank all the webOS GBU employees that I’ve worked with over the years. I wish them all the best, wherever the future takes them. This community has also been fantastic and was a critical factor in my success. Thank you to everyone I met at the NYC developer event last year, everyone I’ve exchanged messages with on Twitter (@MoreSolApps if you want to follow me!) and all the other webOS loyalists. You’ve all been great!
M. Esmaeili, dots & lines: A month ago our first webOS app Carbon made it to HP Veer TV Commercial, a week or so ago we were asked by webOS GBU for permission to pre-load Demo units of Pre3 with Carbon. And then... yesterday. I stared at my screen for hours trying to digest what I was reading ‘til 6 or 7AM in the morning. I still don’t get it. I almost had a tear or two, and oh the number of “I told you so” gestures that I got from the friends in the industry.
I bet all were shocked, but no one in the world saw this coming in this fashion. This is like someone telling you “Yo! We’re demolishing this building, move out, NOW!”. Lucky for us, we do have a summer house (we work on iOS & Windows Phone 7 too).
The only hope that we had all the way was release of new devices, that for us meant getting decent sales. Veer came out, and we didn’t even see any tangible growth in sales. So we again remembered Richard Keriss’ “Yes we can” speech and decided to wait for the TouchPad launch. Needless to mention any details on that launch. And well, since we waited all that long it wouldn’t have hurt any more if we waited for the Pre3 launch. And that ain’t happening. So what are we going to do? We kept on believing. We did our part, worked hard, stayed positive. HP failed us. As developers, there are far more profitable platforms out there, and far better development environments than the “alpha Enyo”. But we love webOS. And specially the community that’s been so patient with us in ups and downs, in our mess-ups and in our successes.
Samsung please buy out webOS GBU. You have Bada, so you know OS dev, you have apps and Developer Relations and have built more apps for Honeycomb than TouchPad has apps. Please buy webOS GBU and their amazing Developer Relations team. And oh, you need all the patents in the world to stop Apple from harassing you on every Monday. That’d be my last webOS wish.
What’s next for dots & lines and webOS? We’ll wait. Carbon will be supported until it’s too late. New apps will be paused until we know where the fate of webOS lies.
Geoff Gauchett, Zhephree: I’m sad. I have urges to compare my emotions to events that were way worse than a cellphone being discontinued, but that’s ridiculous. Developing for webOS has been fun and has introduced me to new experiences and people and my development and design skills in my day job have increased because of it. I’m hopeful that webOS will live on on other devices one day, but I keep feeling that’s a pipe dream. I know that WebOS Internals will help consumers still in contracts be able to use their devices, which is great to know. I feel like, at some point, webOS will reach a status of being a hobbyist’s OS, where WebOS Internals is supplying the only available apps - homebrew - via Preware and the App Catalog and the Palm Profile servers will be shutdown. When, I have no idea, hopefully later rather than sooner.
As for my apps, I’m in limbo on a lot of them. I’m stopping development on growlr (but it’s open source!), stopping development on neato! (and may open source it later on), and halting development on foursquare until I get a better feel for the future of webOS. I’m still going to support the users of my apps and I’m going to issue bug fixes for foursquare (which is also open source!) and if there’s a foursquare feature I really want for myself, I’ll selfishly add it in for me and submit to the Catalog or Preware, whatever’s appropriate at the time. incredible! is still in active development, and I just released the beta to a group of testers. Once the app is completed and in the App Catalog, I’ll be taking a break from webOS development until I see something positive. Will I move on to other OSes? I have no idea. I’m planning on FrankenPre-ing my AT&T Pre2 for Sprint, so I’ll be a webOS user for a little while longer, for sure. I’d like to get back to pure web development and that’s been picking up for me lately, so now I’ll have more time for that. I’ll also have more time to relax, hang out with my fiancée, and maybe read a book or something for once.
PreCentral has been integral to my success in my webOS development, and I’m truly grateful for that. As webOS likely moves further into a homebrew scene, I see PreCentral becoming a bigger player in that realm in getting the word out about new apps and whatnot. I will keep developing for webOS until my emails to my developer relations account manager bounce back, and when that time comes, I’ll make a decision.
James Harris: webOS is not dead. Let me say that again: webOS is not dead.
Just hours before the news broke, I submitted the most advanced and powerful education app for any platform. Then the news broke and I sat there in shock at the thought of all those people running for the exit. Now they would never see the tool that would become one of their greatest weapons in advancing their dreams.
Even if webOS itself does not find a hardware suitor, it at the very least gave us the HTML 5 DNA. We are the fittest in Darwin’s world, we will survive and take pieces of webOS with us.
All we developer’s need to do is simply look more closely at cross platform tools. We have PhoneGap, which just yesterday pledged to support webOS devices as long as there were devices to use. We have Jo, Sencha, jQuery Mobile, iWebKit, and a myriad of other frameworks. There’s AppCelerator, Titanium, and more. Sure, it may take some additional work, but they already share the same DNA.
I for one have a great product and would love to see everyone benefit from its ingenuity.
HP did fail miserably yesterday. They screamed fire in a crowded room and watched as people panicked. They did not inform Developer Relations about this ahead of time (or anyone at Palm it seems), so there were no prepared statements. This delay in communication is only fueling the hysteria.
The Personal Systems Group (which webOS is a part of) is being separated from HP. That means they will be able to get away from the masters that are holding it back. Mix this with some hardware partners such as HTC or Samsung, and it can thrive. Sure, it’ll be an uphill battle, but for a developer, we’ll already share the same DNA remember.
Jaron Horst, Sound Expressions: I personally stopped development after HP’s “Think Big” event. In my mind, HP was making the same mistakes that lead to Palm’s demise - vague timelines, poor communication, “too little, too late” hardware - only new made worse by HP’s ego and arrogance. The fact that they were willing to ditch all of their current users/developers and expect them to wait even longer to get new sub-par hardware “in the coming months” boggled my mind!
After failing to break even on my Mojo 1.x app investment (T-Money), the idea of starting over with a new, incomplete framework and buying new hardware in this bad economy didn’t make sense. After all, if I was to develop my app again, why not on iOS or Android? To be fair though, I polled a handful of my customers to ask what they thought: all but one had moved on to Android or iOS already and had no desire to come back (they did offer to pay double for the same app on the Android platform though!).
I worked for an HP repair shop during my college years and, as a result, I’ve never associated HP with quality or innovation. They always came across as just a budget-minded “me-too” company only on a larger scale. Unlike companies like Apple, HP always seamed to be there for the sale (enterprise contracts) and not to build a loyal cult-following with consumers through quality products, service, and support. Therefore, yesterday’s announcement, although painful from the perspective of a webOS user, developer, and fan, wasn’t much of a surprise.
At this point, I don’t see much chance for webOS to survive unless a huge player picks them up (Amazon or Facebook for example). Even then, I don’t see webOS ever becoming a large player in today’s - or tomorrow’s - cell phone industry. As always, it would be “too little, too late.”
Rod Whitby, WebOS Internals: My webOS devices work today in exactly the same way they did yesterday, and the apps and services that WebOS Internals provides also work the same way today as they did yesterday.
If you purchase consumer electronics for what it might do in the future, instead of what it does do today (and that includes available apps), then you will always end up disappointed.