Oh, what might have been for Palm’s webOS. The promising mobile software was botched from the start with a carrier exclusive in the U.S. followed by a later sale to HP for $1.2 billion, which went down the drain as the new HP TouchPad inventory was sold off at huge discounts not long after launch. LG now owns the platform but only uses it on its smart TVs, and even that almost didn’t happen.
Don’t despair, though: There are still efforts to keep webOS alive on mobile devices. Take the new LuneOS, for example: It’s a port of the open webOS for the old HP TouchPad as well as a few Google Nexus Android devices.
As Engadget noted on Tuesday, there are builds of LuneOS for the HP TouchPad, Nexus 4, Galaxy Nexus and the 2012 Wi-Fi Nexus 7, but the LuneOS team is going to concentrate on supporting the first two devices for now. The most recent build of the software still needs work: It lacks support for Bluetooth, the accelerometer and camera, for example. Audio playback and Wi-Fi should work but “could be buggy,” according to the project page.
So what does work? Some barebones but important items says the LuneOS team:
We also have a working settings app which includes things like wifi, screen, developer mode, and about. Apps that work include a basic browser, Preware, mail (enyo1 but it’s working albeit a tad buggy because of screen size related things), accounts (with some minor issues), memos is fully working, a stubbed contacts app, initial calendar app with no real backend functionality yet, synergy connectors for a lot of endpoints (Google, Yahoo, i*, owncloud, and more) and initial work for a phone app. Also, contacts sync is working along with better suspend/resume handling, and a bunch of other smaller things.
More importantly, the LuneOS team added a way for the software to receive updates instead of requiring users to erase their devices and fully reinstall new versions of the software.
With today’s mobile landscape dominated by Google Android and Apple iOS, LuneOS has practically no chance to become much more than an enthusiast project. That’s not meant to diminish the team’s effort; I still have a TouchPad and always thought the webOS interface was outstanding. I miss what the software offered, although you can see some remnants of it in currently available platforms: Think of the application multitasking view introduced in iOS 7, which reminds me of the card-based system from webOS, for example.
No, LuneOS won’t change the mobile market. But if it keeps progressing it will make plenty of webOS fans (like me) happy to dust off that old HP TouchPad.