February 21, 2009

The Flow Of webOS

Filed under: Musings — mikecane @ 5:21 pm

I was thinking about the way webOS assigns each activity a Card and allows quickly moving from one task to another.

I was also thinking about what a miserable experience my Palm OS 5 LifeDrive has been.

And then I recalled what a joy my Palm OS 4 Sony CLIE S320 was to use.

How could it be that a Palm OS 4 device with 160×160 monochrome screen and a weak CPU was better than a more powerful larger- and color-screened LifeDrive?


Palm OS 4 allowed the use of Hacks.

And they were the Joy Juice of OS 4.

I could, for example, be in SmartDOC and need to quickly refer to something in MemoPad.


A stroke in the Graffiti area would call up MemoPad in a pop-up window over the SmartDOC document. How wonderful is that?

Another stroke, no matter where I was, could call up a tiny Calculator.


Another stroke would call up a list of the last ten apps I’d used (a feature that was added to OS 5 itself).

Yet another stroke would call up a display of special characters, such as the Copyright or # symbols, so I wouldn’t have to memorize the Graffiti strokes for those.

I also had one to call up the current date and time and battery meter.


Really, it was simply lovely the way I could move from one thing to the next. It was speedy and graceful. It didn’t get in my way and I could get things done effortlessly.

webOS will bring back some of that.

I’m especially excited by having more than one email open — from more than one account! — at the same time. Having multiple web pages open. And the wee Notifications area at the bottom to bring in live information.


webOS will bring back what’s been missing from Palm’s hardware: Flow!

Another reason for me — and you — to be excited about the Palm Pre!



  1. Funny, I’ve been thinking about why I’m so excited about the Pre and have landed on this feature as well, although I don’t have the Palm heritage (how quickly I’ve learned what an odd bunch you guys are! ;o) so I just think of it as advanced mobile multitasking. So often what I want to do on my device is hindered by poor multitasking.

    Even in WinMo, an OS basically capable of multitasking, I can’t open two different word documents and toggle between them. I can’t open another email and save my place in the one I’m drafting. With the Pre there’s a whole new level of access and productivity enabled by this kind of productivity. I dig that.

    Comment by Galt — February 21, 2009 @ 6:17 pm | Reply

  2. >>>Even in WinMo, an OS basically capable of multitasking, I can’t open two different word documents and toggle between them.

    Once upon a time, there was an app that allowed just that. It worked sort of like a window pane, putting two documents on the same screen. But I don’t recall its name from years and years ago. It might not have been updated, either.

    Comment by mikecane — February 21, 2009 @ 7:04 pm | Reply

  3. Why is it that if the Palm and Palm OS were so good, how come people weren’t buying them and nearly allowed the company to almost go bankrupt? I’m not attempting to be sarcastic. I would just like to know that if everything about Palm was so superior, why didn’t people flock to it instead of Windows Mobile. I’d heard that Palm sort of stopped updating the OS for quite a while. Was that the reason?

    Comment by Constable Odo — February 22, 2009 @ 2:17 pm | Reply

    • With Palm OS 5, Palm moved to ARM CPUs to give the OS multimedia features (video, MP3) and more security features. This upgrade broke much of the software people had been using up to that point. Also, not soon thereafter, due to a legal action brought by Xerox, Palm replaced the Graffiti HWR with a modified version of Jot!, which they christened “Graffiti 2.” G2 was more effort than it was worth to learn. So the combination of lost prior software plus a funky new text entry method began to turn the tide against Palm. On top of that, smartphones were beginning to incorporate some of the features Palm offered. If people used a Palm PDA primarily as an Address Book, suddenly their cellphone could manage that.

      Comment by mikecane — February 22, 2009 @ 4:22 pm | Reply

      • Lets not forget the software/hardware split of the Palm company that ended badly, with a another company buying the software division before the next iteration of the OS (whatever it would have been) was released.

        Comment by CParticle — February 23, 2009 @ 10:10 am | Reply

  4. Actually, the reason your LifeDrive experience was so bad was because the LifeDrive was such a poorly designed piece of equipment. Palm stumbled *badly* by putting in the hard drive, and completely fell off the cliff by mucking up the RAM between the hard drive and a small amount of cache. It was slow, prone to crashing, battery-eating and otherwise annoying.

    By contrast, the T|X got right just about everything the LifeDrive didn’t. With the same operating system and screen size, the T|X is quicker, more stable, lighter and supported 4 GB of solid state (not hard-drive) storage once SD cards of that capacity were released (and now supports 16 GB and beyond of SDHC storage with Dmitry Grinberg’s PowerSDHC driver). Beyond that, it had 128 MB of *real* RAM (a large percentage of which was available for programs), so it handled things like task-switching, system extensions and the like with aplomb. There’s a reason why, even 3 or so years after its launch, the T|X is probably *still* the most flexible all-around business PDA out there, and is far beyond the iPod Touch (its closest competitor) in overall capability. The T|X was much more a proper successor to the Tungsten C than was the LifeDrive, and from everything that’s been announced, the Pre (with its large storage, HVGA screen, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and multimedia capabilities) seems like it will be a proper successor to the T|X. {ProfJonathan}

    Comment by Jonathan Ezor — February 24, 2009 @ 8:13 am | Reply

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