Several former Palm employees said WebOS, the operating system running the Pre devices and the HP TouchPad, was flawed to begin with and didn’t stand a chance against the iPhone and Android devices.Paul Mercer, former senior director of software at Palm, and several other former employees speaking to the New York Times said the operating system was inherently weaker than the iPhone and didn’t steer the platform in the right direction.
Here are the highlights about their gripes with the operating system and Palm:
After some internal debate, the company chose to have WebOS rely on WebKit, an open-source software engine used by browsers to display Web pages. Mr. Mercer said that this was a mistake because it prevented applications from running fast enough to be on par with the iPhone. But a former member of the WebOS app development team said the core issue with WebOS was actually Palm’s inability to turn it into a platform that could capture the enthusiasm and loyalty of outside programmers. There were neither the right leaders nor the right engineers to do the job, said this person, who declined to be named because he still had some ties to H.P.
From concept to creation, WebOS was developed in about nine months, this person said, and the company took some shortcuts. With a project like this, programmers typically start by creating the equivalent of building blocks that can be reused and combined to create different applications. But with WebOS, Palm employees initially constructed each app from scratch. Later, they made such blocks, but they were overhauled once by Palm and then again by H.P., forcing programmers to relearn how to build WebOS apps.
Another issue was recruiting. In 2009, it was hard to find programmers who had a keen understanding of WebKit, Mr. Mercer said, and Apple and Google had already snatched up most of the top talent.
Some former employees pointed fingers at Jon Rubinstein, then Palm’s chief executive, saying he failed to steer WebOS in the right direction. The former employees said that because of his hardware background, he did not understand the logistics of creating a powerful new operating system, and he was ultimately responsible for the decision to rely on WebKit. Mr. Rubinstein is still at H.P., which declined to make him available for comment.