Key webOS feature: developer interest
This post argues that webOS had one key feature of a successful operating system: developer interest.
Marco Arment explains that Windows Phone 7 might never sell well:
Developers don’t rush to new platforms without very good reasons. Windows Phone won’t get widespread developer support until it sells well.
I don’t agree with that assessment. Apart from selling well, there is one other way to get developer support: Be an interesting platform.
- The 1984 Mac OS was magical. Everyone else had character-based user interfaces, they had the first mass-market graphical user interface.
- In 2001, Mac OS X was appealing, because it combined polished apps with Unix.
- Windows 8 is interesting, because of a touch-first UI and its support for web technologies. I’m still skeptical about their emphasis on the clunky desktop mode. There must be a better way to scale the UI across systems.
- webOS is intriguing due to its clever use of web technologies, including Node.js:
: Ryan Paul for Ars Technica]
The last two examples show that if an operating system supports web technologies well, it immediately has the attention of (web) developers. And developer attention is an important factor for the success of a platform (it was all that Mac OS X initially had).
That’s why I find it especially disappointing that HP dropped their support for webOS so quickly; they had something that appealed to developers. HP is currently taking their time making “the right decision” regarding webOS’s future, while more and more people of the webOS team leave. In the words of John Gruber:
When you’re faced with a “we need to stop the bleeding” problem, you need a fast decision.