A Vision of The webOS Future
webOS Vision In-depth
Previously, I’d written about my vision for webOS, showing a few things like possible products, plus a little bit about how it would all go together, you can read it here if you want. In this follow-up, I intend to go into a lot more detail about how I think it would all come about.
We find ourselves in a peculiar situation where to make an OS successful, you need devices for it to run on. To get devices for an OS to run on, you either need to operate in a way similar to the existing Linux business model, or you need a device manufacturer who is willing to take the gamble.
Running in the Linux model would mean a long haul to having a system which is anything more than a hobbyists play thing. It would mean relying on the few brave souls to hack their way into devices to allow the install of devices, along with programmers developing the OS itself.
Device manufacturers, there aren’t going to be any of the existing ones interested because who would really want to do the dev work and make it work when they have several ready made environments with proven income streams to attract buyers?
The current owners of webOS, Hewlett Packard, have the resources to make webOS work, but they have already stated they will not be making webOS devices and as they’ve written off the cost of purchasing the whole thing, I don’t see a reversal in that position. In order to head off the detractors of HP, remember that there’s no advantage to them in continuing the webOS project at this time so I am grateful to them for doing so.
What’s the solution? Two simple words.
No, it’s not an original idea as Palm has got back up more times than Rocky in a particularly emotional film, however it does have some merit. Does someone buy Palm from HP? No, it could be licensed though. This is not something new, several businesses are run under licensed names, and it also means upfront costs are reduced.
Such a deal could be in the interests of HP because they receive a fee for the Palm name, but a sensible option would be to run all the servers on HPs up and coming cloud service. Add to this the fees to pay for the various licenses on Palm patents that anyone will definitely want to have and it starts to become attractive to HP, they also become interested in the success of such a project because the more successful it is, the more it benefits HP.
Now we have a manufacturer, what would they make?
In my first foray into the vision, I came up with five devices, two phones, two tablets, and a desktop computer, details were a little vague so now I’d like to revisit them and maybe add a few more.
The Pre is what brought us webOS in the first place, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t continue. In theory the phone would continue the styling from the previous versions. One thing I should note before we begin is that the Pre is really a business phone, so the specs may not be what a power uses wants, it is more inline with business. Specs could be;
1.7Ghz dual core processor – Why not quad core? Nokia have gone for dual core over quad core for one reason. Battery power. In order to keep batteries from become insanely sized, a compromise needs to be made, and as the current TouchPad runs very well at 1.7Ghz with its Snapdragon dual core, the phone should do well too. Besides, you know it’ll get overclocked anyway.
1-2Gb RAM – How on earth the Pre 3 managed to do what it can on 512Mb of RAM is truly surprising. An upgrade to at least 1Gb or Ram would help things out, with 2Gb being possible overkill but an option.
16Gb onboard memory – Having owned both versions of the previous incarnation, 8Gb (or rather 6 when everything else has taken its bite) is definitely not enough. Onboard should be a minimum of 16Gb, possibly with the option for a 32Gb version. Will it be expandable? Unlikely. Again, this is a business phone, and so having interchangeable memory cards is not exactly a priority here.
4” screen – This has been much debated between the Pre owners who have joined the discussion but I think that it’ll be a necessary evil. By upgrading to a 4” display, this means the possibility of a 720p display. Ok, there’s not much beside boasting of resolution behind this but a bigger screen isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Expanded keyboard – A bigger screen means a bigger phone which means more space for the keyboard. To be honest, there’s nothing wrong with the current keyboard, it’s very pleasant to use, however, with that extra space there would be room for some rather handy arrow keys.
Cameras – With the front camera we may see an increase in resolution to something like 3MP which would make for better video calling. On the back, an upgrade to 8MP could be handy, especially if it allows 1080p HD video recording. The main difference would be the way the camera functions, keeping it’s core ability of being very fast with expansion to include better low light performance amongst other things, so it becomes a genuine alternative to the traditional point and shoot camera.
Battery – Apart from keeping usage down, the battery would be between 1500 and 2000mAh and designed with the software to allow a full days usage within a predefined guideline of average daily usage. Add onto this the option of a larger battery of up to 400mAh and it should cover everything.
Dimensions – With the larger screen, the dimensions would change from the previous incarnations. By how much? Length would likely go from 111mm on the Pre 3 to 117mm and width increases from 64mm to 67mm. Depth would hopefully not change from 16mm.
How is it looking? I find it helps to look at this as a small phone sized TouchPad, but with the kinks worked out. Other notable parts are the usual 3.5mm audio jack, the microUSB, and the addition of a microHDMI port.
Despite what you think of the name, this is the slab version of the Pre 4, as such it’ll share the same guts as the other phone. Design will take a couple of cues from the Pre, but it will be different as there are one or two changes to the setup.
4.3” screen – A small increase in size with the same 720p requirement on resolution.
16Gb Memory – This version wouldn’t have any more than 16Gb installed memory but would definitely have expandable memory via a microSD card port.
Dimensions – Possibly a little bigger than the Pre 4 so approximately length of 120mm, width of 70mm, but with the thickness much reduced to around the 10mm mark.
Oh yes, the Mini Me of webOS phones grows up… a little. Originally I didn’t believe there would be a need for the Veer as it didn’t seem to be the best solution, but with the increase in size for the Pre 4, there’s room for a larger version of the Veer.
Processor – It’s hard to know whether to go with a single core 1.4Ghz processor or to up it to a dual core 1.2 Ghz chipset. Battery life is the main consideration here so it’ll need a little testing.
3” screen – Up from the 2.6” screen of the original, this would allow a resolution of 800×480, the same as the Pre 3.
1Gb RAM – A good amount to keep things running quickly.
16Gb onboard memory – Seems to be a good default at the moment, not entirely sure about expandable memory but as it’s basically a smaller version of the Pre 4, it’s unlikely to be included.
Battery – Like the Pre 4, this means a full days average use, based on the same profile.
Dimensions – Length goes up from 84mm to 92mm, width increases from 54.5mm to 57mm, and thickness should be the same at 15mm.
Most other things would be the same as the Pre 4 and Ediety, same camera, same microUSB port, possibly a microHDMI port, and 3.5mm audio jack. The point is this is a small version of the Pre 4, but slower hardware which should make it a cheaper solution as well as being smaller.
It’s worth looking at the possibility of a cheaper phone to appeal to people who want in to webOS but can’t stretch to the expensive contracts, or the cost of the handset itself. Be it developing countries, or people on a budget, this device will be the lowest priced item and sold for not much profit. Think Pixi, but with Pre3 specs.
1.4Ghz processor – Single core, but good enough to run things to a certain level.
512Mb RAM – It’s enough to get things going.
4-8Gb onboard memory – The base memory level would be small but the point would be to build it to achieve a price level. To make up for the small level of memory, a microSD slot is essential.
3” screen – 800×480 resolution screen just like the Veer 2
External keyboard – A keyboard is likely and may be fixed rather than the Pre 4/Veer 2 slider.
Cameras – Keeping things low level, front camera would come in at 1.3MP, and the rear would likely be a 5MP unit
Battery – As small a battery as can be allowed with the usual average use levels.
Dimensions – Same width to the Veer 2 at 57 mm, a depth of about 12mm or less, and a length of around the 140mm mark
This is a very rough specification which would need far more research to see what the market needs and can afford before it can be finalised.
The name makes a return but in accordance with the laws of the universe, this applies to the budget version of the webOS tablet. Hardware will be in a similar vein as the Pre 4, with dual core processor, 1-2Gb of Ram, but only running WiFi and Bluetooth. It will be taking a leaf out of the book inadvertently started by HP when they initiated the fire sale, providing good tech at a low price. The point is to move people to the platform and make money from the app catalogue.
Screen – 7” is default, with 720p definition as a minimum, it has to be pleasant to look at. Form factor will likely be 16:9 ratio to show media properly.
Onboard memory – 16Gb is plenty for this device, the possibility of a microSD slot would need a full costing analysis.
Battery – 10 hours of use is a good target to aim for, although it may work out to more.
All in all, pretty well spec’d, there may even be room for a microHDMI port, but again this would need a full costing analysis to see if it’s financially viable.
Say what you see here, this one is designed to take on the laptop market. High power, versatility, it’s intended to take on mid range laptops in productivity.
Screen – 10 inches seems to be the default size of screens at the moment, but an argument could be made for anything up to the 12” mark would be considered. 1080P definition is a certainty at this size so visually it should be up to par. Aspect ratio is a little tough to determine but it’s likely to be 16:9.
Processor – A quad core processor is a definite, whilst the speed could reach 2Ghz, depending on power usage and how marked the difference between processor speeds is.
RAM – 2Gb is the absolute minimum here, but it may increase dependent on the requirements for fast operation.
Memory – Onboard would run at least 32Gb, possibly stretching to 64Gb, plus the definite inclusion of a microSD slot.
Camera – As with the Pre 4 we’re looking at an 8Mp on the back, with a 3Mp in front.
Battery – With the aforementioned spec, we’re looking at about 10,000mAh battery inside, possibly with the option of a bigger battery.
Radios will carry everything you need, including full LTE support, and including NFC as well. A little extra bit would be the addition of an optional stylus slot because some people want them, others don’t.
So, with this hardware up and running, the next part is software. Core apps loaded onto most, if not all, devices would be a media player, video player, basic productivity suite, file organiser/browser, plus many of the apps currently available preloaded on the current stock of devices. In addition, there needs to be support from companies such as Amazon and Netflix to give people the functionality they want.
With the Pre 4 and the PowerPad, a full on productivity suite would be needed as these are business tools, all with LTE would also carry the hotspot software. On top of this there would be some additions.
I have talked about a desktop version of webOS, not running as an app, but as a full version of Linux, designed to make the most of touchscreen technology. It may be possible to have companies dual booting or allowing people to use it as is, but it should use the same mode of being free to use, although parts would be proprietary and so closed source.
You may have noticed the lack of mention for Touch To Share in any of the devices mentioned and that’s because, as much as I like TTS, it’s very limited in functionality, so there needs to be a replacement. Seeing as we’re resurrecting Palm, we should bring back HotSync. This time it would work with WiFi etc so that when within range of a home network, it would allow you to sync what data you wanted when you wanted, be it all the data every time, or some of it when prompted.
Ideally the software would allow seamless work flow between devices, so if you wanted to share documents round the office or you wanted to watch a particular film on your tablet at home, the webOS software would allow you to do that.
Oh, and to add a touch of cool, voice commands could allow you to do all of that by just talking to them.
There needs to be investment in infrastructure, a full website allowing you to browse apps available, customer support, plus a guarantee to continue to develop the software so people believe the platform has a future.
All in all, this vision shows a possible way to establish a way forward and with the idea of webOS allowing people to work how they want, where they want, in a way that makes sense straight out of the box. Technology is meant to make life easy, it shouldn’t make life hard doing it, and I believe that webOS is the best way to achieve this.