Given all the hyperbole, expectations for Palm’s press conference this afternoon were almost impossibly high. But judging by audience reaction, it would seem the struggling company delivered.
Palm used its tightly packed press ballroom at the Venetian to unveil both its highly anticipated new operating system, dubbed WebOS, and a phone that goes along with it: the Palm Pre. The new OS introduces a new way of navigating on mobile devices using “cards,” which can be easily rearranged, closed and shoved to the background without losing the data in them, using gestures instead of traditional buttons for navigation.
On a superficial level, WebOS’s styling clearly resembles iPhoneOS, with large type, clean design, and few small icons on any given page. Palm has also endowed it with momentum to make elements bounce around with flicks of the finger, and a multi-touch interface.
The card system stands as its main differentiator: Unlike the iPhone, which forces users to close one application to open another, WebOS opens each app as a card, giant visual tabs that can be thumbed through easily and flicked out of the “deck” to close them. Moving back and force through menus, as well as this motion for closing items, is all accomplished with gestures to cut down on visual clutter.
Other features of the OS, which we’ll elaborate on in future articles, include dashboards, synergy for combining data from multiple cloud apps, and seamlessly threaded conversations across multiple platforms such as IM, SMS and e-mail.