In five days, HP/Palm will unveil its new and long-anticipated webOS goodies. Everyone expects at least two sizes of tablets to be introduced and at least one, if not two, smartphones.
The drumbeat of webOS being a loser platform has already begun, with people thinking HP/Palm is so far behind, and has so few developers, that it can’t possibly catch up.
Over at Palm Infocenter, the ever-present Gekko stated:
the ecosystem is critical. without a great ecosystem – you are doomed.
That’s a problem of perception. If every platform has the same Top 100 apps, any deficiencies beyond that point aren’t that big a deal. If everyone can have 99% of what they want on a platform, there is no compelling reason to jump ship and lose that investment chasing a missing 1%.
So while iOS might have 20 Twitter apps and Android might have 10 Twitter apps, webOS having only 5 Twitter apps would not be such a big deal in terms of practical functionality.
And Apple has just shot itself in the foot, demanding a 30% cut from outside webstores (Kindle, B&N, Sony, et al), so it’s highly likely many publishers will flock to Android and webOS and give them an edge.
That said, there are certain things I absolutely need webOS to have.
1) The ability to play Divx/xviD AVI video of the kind shared on the Internet. This is a functionality all Archos tablets have with proprietary native software running on Android. It makes Archos a compelling product for that reason alone. No one wants to be limited to MP4 or 3GP video. No one.
2) A damn good PDF viewer. If anyone from HP/Palm and Adobe (who I expect to provide Adobe Reader X for webOS) is reading this, rush right now to Google Books and test their PDFs. If they work, you’re golden. If they don’t, you are in damned deep trouble. The post that has had the biggest amount of sustained traffic here is all about reading PDFs.
3) A killer photo app. Something that can really handle multiple-GBs of photos, organize them effectively, and move through them efficiently. It would also be great if there were some minor editing abilities built-in, such as the ability to rescale, crop, and rotate and save the changes so the new photo can easily be sent via email or posted to TwitPic or a blog.
4) An ePub book reader. Although HP currently partners with Barnes & Noble to provide a co-branded version of Nook software for Windows, the software itself is crappy, without the ability to add non-B&N ePubs to the main bookshelf. Non-B&N ePubs are treated as second class citizens. I expect webOS Nook software to be pre-installed on devices, but unless it treats all ePubs equally, it will be worthless.
5) A blogging application. I’d rather HP/Palm wooed WordPress to provide a client, but any good general blogging software would be wonderful. I’d like to be able to post to WordPress from a webOS device.
6) A web-based app store. Google finally woke up to the wisdom of doing this. It’s a great marketing tool. People who are thinking of buying a webOS device can check to see if the apps they need are available.
7) Gold-standard search in an app store. There can be zero compromise with search. Search is the method that generates sales. Apple’s App Store is a search disaster. It gives different results for searches from iTunes desktop versus iOS device (and Apple just widened this gap with search improvements limited to iOS devices!). Search must be easy, flawless, and comprehensive.
8) An app store that recognizes books and periodicals as special. Absolutely do not repeat Apple’s mistakes. Do not ban content, do not make it hard to find, do not try to gouge those who sell it outside of your store. Every bit of content available for webOS makes it that much more valuable. Recognize that content in itself adds value. The pennies you might lose by not gouging it is made up in the dollars webOS device owners spend on other things. So don’t be greedy!
9) Gift Cards. Think that just tying into PayPal for payment is enough? No. PayPal just screwed Wikileaks. Wikileaks has lots of supporters. Those supporters will never use PayPal again. I am one of those supporters. Apple, Amazon, Sony, and Borders have a huge advantage in that they sell Gift Cards. People who have lost their plastic — or given it up — during this economic crisis still want to buy digital goods. Gift Cards are the way to do this. Until people can easily buy Gift Cards for your app store everywhere in brick & mortar stores, you will be at a competitive disadvantage. (Google has the same disadvantage right now!)
10) An app store wish list. Every good store lets people create a Wish List for future possible purchases. Except Apple’s own App Store. Show Apple how to do it.
Most people like lists of 10, so I will stop here.
I look forward to February 9th. I like webOS. I’d like to see it on kick-ass hardware. HP/Palm has a real shot at succeeding in a very big way.
Remember Ed Colligan’s mantra: Delight the customer!