Why Palm's WebOS Could Shake up the Netbook World

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mark_spoonfed1Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Toshiba. Nearly every PC manufacturer is looking to cash in on the growth of smart phones by either bringing out their own devices or by potentially acquiring an established player like Palm or Research in Motion. This week the hot rumor is that a Dell-Palm marriage could be on the horizon, and I do think the idea has merit. Although the eagerly anticipated Pre device would certainly give street cred to any potential suitor, it’s the WebOS itself and its potential beyond smart phones that makes Palm an especially tempting target. Here are five reasons why its OS could shake up the netbook world.

  1. WebOS is the most attractive and intuitive Linux OS. Ever. Yes, distributions like Ubuntu and Linux Mint look nice, and I'm sure Android will make some waves in the netbook arena (Asus is rumored to be working on a system) but WebOS is far and away the most consumer-friendly mobile OS I've seen. It just looks polished and slick--and no offense--doesn't feel like you're using Linux. Given that Microsoft is considering selling crippled netbooks with a Starter edition of Windows 7 that can run only three apps simultaneously (presumably in the hopes of upselling to a premium version) Dell or another PC manufacturer would be wise to either inquire about licensing WebOS or acquire Palm outright.
  2. It's touch friendly. Rumors of a touch-enabled Apple netbook are rampant. And ASUS will be launching the Eee PC T91 this year, which will add a touch interface on top of Windows XP. I believe the WebOS would be a welcome alternative to those choices and the still unproven Windows 7 (at least when it comes to touch). The activity card paradigm, where you could shuffle or just whisk away apps, would be welcome on a 7- inch or larger screen. Plus, there will be a built-in app store for touch friendly apps, which as far as I know Windows 7 won't have at launch.
  3. It's integrated with the cloud. The ability to link contacts from multiple sources and have layered calendars all synced with the Web makes the WebOS a no-brainer for a netbook, especially one with integrated mobile broadband. I think carriers would be more willing to consider stocking a netbook that doesn't leave customers asking how they sync their information between their primary PC and netbook than one that does a lot (if not all) of the work for them.
  4. It plays nice with ARM processors. Last week one analyst claimed that ARM could capture over 50 percent of the netbook market with its low-powered processors. Ambitious start-up Always Innovating's Touch Book, which has ARM inside, claims that its netbook will offer up to 15 hours of battery life. As netbook buyers demand more endurance from these machines, WebOS and ARM could prove to be a winning combination.
  5. It supports Flash. When Palm said during Mobile World Congress that the WebOS would support Flash, it was careful not to make the jump to the Pre itself. We'll have to wait and see on the smart phone front, but full support for Flash is certainly good news for the platform. Being able to enjoy sites like Hulu and YouTube, without X86 architecture, is huge on a netbook, and it could make Palm's stable of apps that much richer than the competition's.

Editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP’s online and print editorial content and has been covering mobile and wireless technology for over a decade. Each week Mark’s SpoonFed column provides his insights and analysis of the biggest mobile trends and news. You can sign up to receive this column by e-mail newsletter or follow Mark on twitter.

Author Bio
Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief on
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  • eric kritz Says:

    MS should leave the hardware biz, or make it entirely independent under Nokia mgmt. But for its software side, the errors of Vista, Win7, and 8 must be corrected; And how? To rejuvenate XP, the best product they ever made: re-support it, some minor updates, but keep the look and feel the same: it has an installed base of millions who cannot understand the teenage mentality of "different is better"; not when you have work to do, and no time to learn a new O/S every other year. Bring back XP! Charge for it: they'll make millions right away!

  • Adam Felde Says:

    The links on this enewsletter are broken. I am unable to unsubscribe. I don't know how I got on your email list anyway.

    Please unsubscribe me. I find the newletter not worthwhile.

  • offroad Says:

    Interesting mix of OSs, but I notice that Ubuntu is missing for the line-up. Is this because manufacturers are snubbing the OS?

  • Malcolm Giffen Says:

    To whom it may concern.

    I do not make many comments and or give inputs unless I feel it is worth while. That being said, I heavily disagree with an iPhone that has a screen bigger than 4 inches, and here is why. I recently upgraded to an iPhone5 from the iPhone4. This was the second smart phone i have owned, though I have had several PDA type devices that pre-date iPhone type smart phones. While I like the screen size upgrade, anything bigger would be bulky. If you want bigger screen size buy a tablet. Companies like Samsung build bigger screens, but sacrifice quality, (I know 3 people that have broken the screen on the Galaxy 3). While many companies are focusing on bigger screens, over time I believe this trend will slow down. The iPhone4 actually was the best balanced phone for ratio size. It just felt right in the hand. Try to keep in mind the new smart phone era is less then ten years old. While there are many fine manufacturers that make good smart phones, Apple puts more time and energy into their products than any other company period. Love them or hate them, I hope that they do not bow to the sudden, and I stress TREND, of bigger screens . Better that they keep a 3.5 screen size as a option. Someday soon I hope, nano technology will provide manipulation of stretching to a bigger screen when the need arises for a bigger screen. Until then I will be satisfied with what is currently available and trust Apple to do what is right. If Steve Jobs was still alive, he would laugh in all are faces.

    Just to keep things in perspective, iPhone5 sales are doing just fine regardless of what anyone predicted. And just in case anyone failed to notice, the older iPhones4 and 4s are still great phones. Not everyone at this point is in such a great rush financially, or otherwise to upgrade their phones at the drop of a hat or screen size. Well, enough said. Hope my small opinion gives some insight on this new golden age of technology that we now live in.

  • Raymondz Says:

    "Despite the fact that the Windows Store stocks some compelling apps, such as 'Angry Birds Star Wars,' ..."

    Really? That's supposed to be "compel" me to buy a Surface?

    See, this is precisely the kind of junk that I DO NOT want to see on a tablet. I depend on Microsoft's OSes for business- and work-related tasks, not for this consumer-oriented pabulum. Microsoft is suffering from a severe identity crisis. I hope it recovers soon, even if it means that Microsoft becomes a dedicated niche player, serving business and enterprise needs.

    Microsoft really needs to focus on what it does best. There is enough crap out there for "consumers." What about the rest of us? You know, those of us who actually work and produce?

    Windows 8 sucks wind, in my himble opinion.

  • Paul Says:

    FYI Verizon does have the best network, AT&T and Sprint work great in my area, Verizon does not!!!!!!!!

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