A pretty damning report from Brian X. Chen for The New York Times. It essentially says that Palm and then HP were incompetent with their building and management of webOS.
But even more damning may be what it says about the “web versus native” debate. Quoting Paul Mercer, the former senior director of software for Palm:
“If the bar is to build Cupertino-class software in terms of responsiveness and beauty,” he said, “WebKit remains not ready for prime time, because the Web cannot deliver yet.”
This is interesting since Apple itself was vital in the development of WebKit and still uses it as the backbone of Safari. But consider this: when the iPhone first launched in 2007, Apple tried to get third party developers to make web apps for the iPhone since there was no native development SDK. A year later, they backed down from that and released the framework that created the most important element of the iOS ecosystem: third-party native apps.
It’s perhaps a bit too simplistic to say, but Palm didn’t have the luxury to pivot to native because “native” for webOS is the web. And Mercer argues that it’s still not ready to match native app development — a topic which is entering its fourth year of debate.
I can’t speak from the developer side of things, but all I know is what I see as a user: native apps still destroy web apps. Starting this week, I’m sure we’re going to hear how that’s poised to change (yet again) in 2012. But I doubt it. And that’s why webOS is still screwed.