Two news stories from this week come together perfectly — at least in my mind.
Palm, Inc., maker of the webOS, is allegedly looking to be acquired, and HTC is considering developing or buying an operating system. A merger would bring together a company that makes an excellent operating system with one that makes truly outstanding hardware.
The webOS manages to be both simple and powerful at the same time, not an easy task. Its “card” system of displaying concurrently-running applications is the best way of handling multitasking on a small screen that I know of.
On the other hand, Palm’s hardware is just so-so. The designs are generally OK, but the company has an unfortunate fascination with almost unusably small keyboards.
HTC has been at the forefront of smartphone development for just about as long as there has been such a thing as a smartphone. It made the very first phone with a Microsoft OS back in 2002, and the first model running Google’s Android OS in 2008. It is expert at combining touchscreens and keyboards into usable models.
But it has always licensed its operating systems from other companies, and therefore has no expertise in this area. Nevertheless, it is thinking about emulating its rivals Apple, RIM, Google, Samsung, and even Microsoft by releasing smartphones with its own OS.
Palm calls the webOS system for bringing together information from a variety of sources “Synergy”. I think that term would also describe the combination of Palm’s software with HTC’s hardware: the total would be greater than the sum of the two parts.