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LG acquires webOS from HP, plans to use it in smart TV platform (engadget.com)
153 points by j_col 1610 days ago | hide | past | web | 70 comments | favorite

I have difficult to see what advantage webOS has on a TV. With no touch (?) they need to completely redesign the interface anyway.

The could pair it with a Kinect style gesture interface.

Sigh. I really find TVs with enhanced features that useful. The problem is that the software goes out of date very quickly, and I am entirely dependent on the TV manufacturer for updates, which will likely stop shortly after the TV goes out of production (which is what, 6 months these days).

All I really want out of a TV is good picture quality, and a bunch of input ports. For video streaming, gaming, and other apps, I prefer to have a separate box for that, which can be replaced and/or upgraded less expensively.

Yeah. LG's high end smart TVs have something called Magic Remote. It's no kinect, but an improved version of this might work well with an WebOS adapted for the big screen. http://www.lg.com/global/magicremote/

I have one and it's awful. For one thing, if you have it sitting somewhere on your couch, any time someone else moves on the couch, a cursor will appear on the screen for 10 seconds or so because the remote will detect movement.

Mine does not do that. Gotta hit a button for it to wake up the remote.

Nice. I'll have to check if that's an option for mine.

It's hard to imagine a worse ending to the WebOS software.

Seems fitting to me, as Palm bought BeOS, accomplished nothing with it, and they sold it off to Access Co, who appears to have done nothing with it.

Hang on. That's not true. At one time the ELSE phone was hyped. http://youtu.be/M4sVGR5uRhc

It went nowhere, but at least it was something at one time.

Similarly the BeOS platform morphed into Palm OS 6 (Cobalt), which only ever appeared in sample quantities from a phone OEM. (This was well after Palm spun off their OS business, but before PalmSource was acquired by ACCESS)

...and then technology from Palm OS Cobalt, the Binder, migrated with engineers from that team to become part of the low-level system interface in Android.

The saddest video I've seen in a long time ;-)

The worst ending (darkest timeline?) would be WebOS not getting used for anything at all.

I'm curious to see if it will stay open-source. At this point, though, Firefox OS has much more mindshare as a full-stack mobile web OS anyway.

The problem is that anything could have much more mindshare. WebOS has negative mindshare; a new product built from the ground up with modern technology actually has a better chance of success (and indeed, that's likely to happen).

>WebOS has negative mindshare

I wouldn't be so categorical about that. There's at least a minority of users, most of them technical, that really appreciated WebOS for its capacity for multitasking and the UI, if nothing else [1]. (How relevant would this be in a TV OS is debatable.)

Even today WebOS remains a good platform for hacking with an unofficial app marketplace [2] that's still actively maintained and offers, among other things, two "real" Linux distributions (Ubuntu and Debian chroots). I keep a Palm Pre Plus with Debian myself for use in various experiments (like making a time-lapse camera). I got it for cheap when it was clear that WebOS is in decline but now I (along with many others who did the same) would be in the market for a new WebOS device if one came out, though probably not a TV.

[1] See, e.g., comments right here on HN: http://www.hnsearch.com/search#request/comments&q=webos+..., http://www.hnsearch.com/search#request/comments&q=webos+....

[2] http://www.webos-internals.org/wiki/Application:Preware

Open WebOS is under the Apache 2 license, so no take-backs.

Opera also has its own product for smart TVs and set top boxes, but not quite a full fledged mobile OS.

Not using WebOS on smartphones is really a waste. Palm failed but I still think it was an OS ahead of its time.

Sometimes 'ahead of its time' is not such a good thing. Specifically, when the available hardware can't keep up with what the system design demands[1], e.g. a responsive smartphone touch interface created in an interpreter (as far as I can see without even having a JIT compiler) on a 500Mhz embedded CPU, without GPU acceleration[2]. It was ahead of its time alright.



Sure, running too taxing software on unaccelerated hardware is a bad thing. But webOS wasn't slow. It had sporadic slowdown and then it really was slow, but in normal state it sure could compete speedwise.

It was buggy, the scrolling felt slow because the settings were wrong (as proven by the buttah-patch), same for the animations, the default-browser lacks html5-support, the connectivity of the phones is bad, pages often don't load without a reason even when on wlan (and when not, it often fails to fetch a slowly loading page bit for bit, which was made even worse because the browser would reload that page the moment it was loaded because he was inactive too long(!)) - it wasn't performance that was the issue here.

So maybe LG really can take the system and make something out of it. The tile-system sure could work on TVs designed to be used with a remote-touchpad-controller.

Mercer is a bit... biased. He was pushing a debased Java system that took five lines of code to center text, and couldn't implement Duarte's ideas properly. So webOS becoming, well, webOS was in reaction to that and a rushed effort to come up with something else in time for CES 2009.

The Palm folks then spent too many months de-Mercerizing the code for webOS 2.0...

How this affects the Enyo and Open webOS projects? Is it affecting them at all?

Both the HP and LG press releases say "LG will assume stewardship of the open source projects of Open WebOS and Enyo."

I'm the Enyo tech lead and I've got an offer from LG.

Hope you guys continue the good work! :)

I was wondering the exact same thing. I guess it's very likely LG abandons the open version of it though.

Since no one has posted this... CNET has pulled the article which was the only source of this deal. I'm guessing it was a hoax. We'll find out soon, I'm sure.

According to Business Insider they broke an embargo: http://www.businessinsider.com/hang-oncnet-just-pulled-this-...

I wonder if any attempt at reinventing TV will achieve a mainstream success (I mean a legacy TV scale success). Up until today all such attempts attracted a relatively small group of customers and a popular opinion is that TV is bound to die.

"TV is bound to die"

Quite impossible. TV is the large entertainment display in your living room. That won't die. Whatever currently runs that display might die, but it will be replaced with something better.

I want Spotify for my TV. Let me choose shows to watch, when I want them, streamed from my fiber internet connection, on-demand, right after they come out, and I will pay a premium.

Netflix is so close to this. They need a few more agreements and a better interface designed for TV and designed for an entertainment system. Frankly I'm a bit surprised they're not there yet; it leaves the space open for someone else to fill with a better living-room UI.

Big opportunity here folks, if you can deal with licensing & legal. Someone else do it, I don't have the time.

I've always been of the opinion that a TV is just a display. A computer/the web/netflix just gives you access to more content for that display; it's still a TV. Analog broadcast channels, digital cable w/ box and guide features, the full web and netflix, what's the real difference here other than quantity of content? We'll still be watching shows and movies on large format displays for the foreseeable future.

tl,dr: A TV is just a display, we're not going to stop watching content, why say TV is bound to die?

A lot of people use `TV' to refer to both the thing on the wall, and the industry that produces things to show on the thing on the wall. I think that's the case here.

Assuming I've read the OP right, I don't agree with the assessment that the TV industry ``is bound to die''. The demand for high-quality, well-made programming remains relatively stable (maybe increases gradually over time), and even with the best will in the world, amateur producers can't produce anything to match something like Game of Thrones. So there will probably always be something akin to the TV industry producing that sort of programming.

What probably will change is the means of distribution -- it'll be over the internet instead of over the air -- but I don't think there will be a radical shift in the style of broadcast for a long time. People are happier paying $XX for a cable/satellite package and getting an Eat-As-Much-As-You-Like experience instead of buying each course separately. If this wasn't the case, we'd already have seen a massive uptick in people cancelling their TV service and just buying $PROGRAMME season-by-season on iTunes. As far as I've seen and read, that just isn't the case.

The more availability of internet-based programming, the more people will use it. The more people use it, the more strain is put on bandwidth, which in many areas is already strained. I think we're in for a rude awakening here; the TV industry is warming up to internet distribution faster than the broadband industry is advancing its tech. People run back to cable when Netflix buffers every 5 minutes.

I agree completely, but broadcasting their programming via the internet isn't a paradigm shift for anything except set viewing schedules. Whether I'm watching The Walking Dead over the air at a set time, or watching it over the internet whenever I feel like it, I'm still watching it, and the TV industry as we know it still needs to exist in a relatively similar form to produce it. The only real change is that they broadcast from a server instead of via a transmitter, and they can't guarantee to advertisers that I'll be sitting down at a certain hour to watch it, which may dilute their advert's effectiveness somewhat.

You are right, TV viewed as just a display is IMO not bound to die. But TV as a platform for delivering content very likely is (and this is large part of the business). Companies creating smart TVs are definitely not agreeing that TV should be just a display, because then what would be a point of putting a feature rich OS there?

Maybe because early adopters don't care for TVs. I'd be willing to bet most folks here in HN don't really watch TV for instance, other than for the occasional news, and for something to eventually catch on and become mainstream having a base of early adopters helps. Perhaps I'm just assuming things, but I feel like this will be a major block on the road to everyone building "smart" TVs.

I think group watching will remain popular, especially among kids, and for that you need a large display. Maybe the trend will be towards screen sharing, where you'd use a tablet or phone to select programming, then switch it to the screen. Maybe 'screen control' would be a more apt name, since I wouldn't want to depend on the tablet/phone for data & rendering. I'm not convinced that enormous standalone tablets are sufficient, because I have to believe that fingerprint smudges on a TV would be seriously distracting.

Yes, people for sure will still want to watch stuff on good quality displays. But I think dump TVs: large displays that you can easily connect to a standard computer or a mobile device and stream content to are much more compelling than 'smart' platforms.

You can plug computers into the HDMI port of any new TV already, right? Whats the difference between a TV and a large display, for the purposes of the average consumer?

None whatsoever. I know lots of non-technical people who do exactly that, without having the faintest idea of how their laptop magically outputs stuff to their TV. To them, in that use case, it becomes much the same as the DVD player or video recorder they're used to; it just so happens that it also does more than either of those two things.

So far there are two main use cases for smart TV's - watching videos, and games. Up until now "smart TV's" are bundled with mediocre to terrible video apps, and don't come with game controllers or game apps.

At this point something like Roku or OUYA is a lot closer to the future of TV than even Google TV, which for reasons I'll never understand doesn't seem to even understand the basic use cases of smart TV - video and games.

I don't see how webOS gets LG any closer to what people want from a smart tv.

The thing I liked most about WebOS?

Gestures and its card system.

I cannot imagine how that translates to a TV.

I ran into a company that has created software that allows 3D gesture sensing with inexpensive IR devices. It would seem to be perfect for this use. WebOS with gestures is a lot more intuitive than any of the remotes on my coffee table.


Leap interface? https://www.leapmotion.com/

Perhaps a remote with a touch pad for gestures?

With TV's "second screen" being touted -- mainly via iOS -- LG is going to pass up an opportunity and NOT make a webOS tablet?

Wait. We're talking about webOS here. It's always screwed, so never mind.

Or with a smartphone

Or a Wii-like remote

It's like the village bicycle. Everyone is taking it for a ride. The idea behind WebOS and some of it's UI held were pretty awesome. Unfortunately it's got way too much baggage now. I think Firefox OS has the best chance to do what WebOS could have done.

If LG uses its new ownership to pay one developer to release the update that was promised and in the pipeline for the HP Veer, but was never released (rumor was they simply forgot to switch a button), I promise my next TV will be a LG.

This just signals that there is a hole in the market for an open source smart TV platform. Google TV was supposed to be that, but it's pretty clear that they don't take it as seriously as they take Android. To manufacturers like LG, TVs are actually more important, and falling behind competitors is more serious. Forking Android for this purpose isn't really an option thanks to the recent "non-fragmentation agreement" all of the phone manufacturers were forced to sign. So they are going to try and go down the proprietary route. They'll likely fail, but we'll see.

You don't need to fork Android as such. There is a huge uptake of Android Smart TV sticks amongst hobbyists and early adopters and it already works fairly well. XMBC has been ported and there are more and more apps in the Play Store specifically aimed at this market. Stick a custom launcher on it and plug in a remote and you're away.

This is still early days but it looks like Android TV is happening despite Google rather than because of them.

This just signals that there is a hole in the market for an open source smart TV platform.

Is there, though? I'm pretty technical, and very interested in the whole FLOSS thing, and I'm pretty much of the `meh' contingent when it comes my TV's software's licensing. All I really care about is turning the damn thing on, watching what I want, when I want, and being able to afford to rent the stuff I want to watch. Now take that disinterest in the licensing and `openness' of a TV's software, multiply it several times, and you get close to the amount most non-technical people care about the software their TV runs.

I've worked with non-technical people long enough to know that they care about getting done what they want to do, easily, more than almost anything else when it comes to software. That attitude may be short-sighted, but it's very much the standard; all they want from a TV is the ability to watch $PROGRAMME with as little pain and inconvenience as possible. Caring about the philosophy of the software a TV runs is very much a `nerd' past-time, and that's not likely to change soon.

Once licensing deals by the TV manufacturers force them to choose between a TV that supports Youtube, Netflix and HBO, but not NFL Gamepass and a TV that support Netflix and NFL Gamepass, but not HBO and Youtube then they will start to care.

Exactly this. It's silly to expect people to buy several devices and subscribe to several 'pay monthly' services because everyone is signing exclusive content deals left right and center.

We've seen what happens with Sports deals on Pay TV and people don't like being taken for fools. The remaining moral barriers to piracy dissolve very quickly when people feel cheated.

I think you missed my point. That consumers only care about their programming being available is precisely why an open platform is needed. If LG releases a smart TV that doesn't have Netflix, Hulu, MLB.tv, Amazon, etc. they look bad in the eye of the consumer. Those content providers are currently building out separate apps for each TV platform, or at least for the ones big enough to move the needle.

Pretty much all the current crop of smart tvs use HTML as their primary app platform. It's pretty consistently WebKit with a few custom integration points for TV specific functions. For all intents and purposes there is already a consistent open platform for apps on TVs

I own a small agency who builds apps for these platforms we can hit LG/Samsung/Panasonic/Sharp/Sony tvs with a single code base now. There are still a few outlier platforms like Yahoo Roku etc but HTML now gets us ~80% of the market.

Awesome to hear that. I've long suspected that TV was a more appropriate for HTML5 than mobile, precisely because the remote input is much closer to traditional computing than touch. Clicker.tv made a TV-centric web-app several years ago that works wonderfully.

If you have some time to write about it, I'd love to hear more about how these systems work, are they packaged or delivered over http? Do you use <video>?

So what they want is an open platform, not necessarily an open source platform -- iOS being `closed' certainly hasn't stopped these broadcasters from building apps for it. What's made it a success is the installed base of users, which has meant it's worth the broadcasters' time and money to create apps to work on these devices.

As for availability of programming, that's basically what I said in my initial reply: *``all [the viewers] want from a TV is the ability to watch $PROGRAMME with as little pain and inconvenience as possible''.

If the ultimate goal is (as it should be) to get these broadcasters' programming everywhere, on all TVs, the last thing we need is another damned platform with a tiny userbase. We need some kind of consolidation, or (ideally) interoperable standard, that allows a ``write once, run everywhere'' ability for their apps.

I think we're in fierce agreement here.

But of all the hardware makers, LG? They make ugly products. Innovation is not really in their DNA. I wonder where this is going.

Ugly is in the eye of the beholder, but LG moves a ton of product, and could put WebOS somewhere it has never been so far: in the hands and homes of millions of consumers.

The real question is whether the UX will be beautiful on TVs with remote controls. It was on the Pre, but that's nothing similar.

LG's 3D TV range is actually quite good. The Cinema3D series of smart TVs have a lot going for them including great display, beautiful elegant design, and an intuitive remote.

Nexus 4 is ugly?

I have a Nexus 4 and it's beautiful. I love it. But I don't really consider it an "LG" phone because look at how strikingly different it is from their other models. It seems that because they carried the Nexus brand, they had to follow the Galaxy Nexus' design, which might be a standard for Nexus phones now. I wouldn't be surprised if the next Nexus phone looked the same.

Definitely not at the cutting edge of phone design either.

It actually makes a lot of sense and a great opportunity if you can take your eyes from that big screen. Palm as a remote.

this tweet by Kontra sums it up:

WebOS has been targeted to mini-phones, larger smartphones, tablets, printers & now TVs. Won't stop until you see it on a LG refrigerator.


Imagine a situation where you'a query your fridge from the market and it tells you that you're low on milk or have 8 eggs so no need to get more.

Or when the people who made your fridge query it without your knowledge, then sell the current state to 3rd parties who make sure that all you see are egg ads on the internet.

Yeah. That's what sucks about technology. So much cool innovation, but it is ultimately used against you, or the misuses are forced down your throat until you're okay with it.

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