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aaron

HP Palm has an enormous problem on their hands right now.

For a long time, they've been promising Pre and Pixi owners that the webOS 2.0 upgrade would be available for their devices "in the coming months." This was the vague message repeated at their developer events, in interviews, and through their social media channels — much to the chagrin of their customers, who were holding out for the update with decreasing patience.

www.precentral.net­/webos­-2­-0­-will­-be­-released­-all­-...
mobile.twitter.com­/palm­/status­/27840742297

The 2.0 update would include Adobe Flash support, a long-awaited feature that customers were told was coming over a year ago at Palm's CES 2010 event.

But yesterday, amidst all of the new product announcements, HP dropped a huge stinking bomb on their existing customers: webOS 2.0 would NOT be coming to these older phones. Device owners who stuck with Palm are outraged over being misled for months, as evidenced by the flood of angry, curse-laden reactions on sites like PreCentral and Palm's own Facebook wall.

To add insult to injury, today HP launched a website to check if your device can be upgraded to webOS 2.0 by entering its serial number: ws.palm.com­/WebOsChecker­/serialnumberinitial.htm
The Pre 2 is the only device that can run webOS 2.0 right now — and it hasn't even been released on Verizon yet. This means almost every webOS smartphone owner who uses this upgrade checker is being rejected.

Not only does this infuriate the webOS devotees who held out as tempting new Android devices hit the market, but it sends a bad vibe through the developer community as well. Will developers be as eager to adopt the new webOS 2.0 SDK, knowing that practically none of the current installed userbase will be moving to 2.0? It's not a good concern to have right now, because HP needs all of the third-party developer support they can get.

Could HP fix this by offering existing owners a new 2.0 phone at a steeply-discounted price? Or have they permanently lost the trust of their customers?

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21 replies
seth

There are some solid points in this article that are really hard to argue with: www.webosroundup.com­/2011­/02­/making­-the­-case­-why­-h...
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aaron

Clearly companies can't continue to support older devices indefinitely, but the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus aren't that old (maybe a year?). And it still remains — Palm promised features like Flash on the Pre well over a year ago, and now they've rescinded on that.
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seth

Everything is vaporware until it's released, especially when a company makes promises and then is acquired by another company that actually knows how to run a business properly ;-)
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dotEvan

I agree. However, this market is getting quite competitive and companies need to be able to build trust with the consumers. Part of Apple's success can be attributed to their loyal fanbase spreading the "gospel", so to speak. Apple also plays in to this very well by not promising *anything*, which makes it nearly impossible to let down consumers of their products. As more companies come online with amazing tablet and phone products in similar price ranges, it may very well come down perception of how the company does business that determines who gets the sale. While acquisitions, vaporware and broken promises are bound to happen, they still will inevitably play a role in the company's market share.
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jbrandonf

Don't kid yourself. For one, the rumor sites do more to get peoples hopes more than apple ever could. Look at the overwhelming response to the iPad 2..or the iphone 3gs..there plenty of disappointment to go around.
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deyobr

Yeah, people seem to forget that this time last year, Palm was an independent company that had no hope for the future so they would promise anyone anything to keep them on board. HP doesn't act like that. They won't either. They'll methodically move forward and will do so like a Tsunami. They have demonstrated they are committed to webOS and I think we'll see the results in about a month. They're marketing push is rolling out this weekend. The whole world will be aware of webOS when these devices launch. I bet they'll release a 4inch. slate and 7 inch. tablet before the end of the year as well.
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jbrandonf

This didn't turn out to be true. The tablet yes but they did not deliver what the market demanded which would have been a 4in slab styled phone. Instead they felt a vertical slider phone with a 2.5 inch screen would sell better. So much for that tsunami..
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deyobr

It doesn't matter. Like someone recently said- HP is interested in the Billions not the hundreds of thousands. Those same people will get something special from HP. Either a discounted device or some sort of software solution. They've proven that they'll do the right thing for the community. They just gave a $10,000 server to webOS internals. I don't think they are turning their backs on anyone. This was a difficult choice and it had to be made to move the platform forward to compete with honeycomb and iOS.
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dotEvan

I agree that this was the right decision -- as a developer myself, you just need to know when to cut your losses. But continuously promising features that become vaporware and alienating customers would not be in HPs best interest. With their response, they are at least not turning a deaf ear on their loyal customers, so I think they have taken a good first step in addressing the issue.
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aaronaut

the other reality that companies HAVE to address, is that even though numbers show that many of us only have a phone for a year, there are tons of customers who own their device for the full 2 year contract their service provider holds them to. i'm not a fan of regulation from the gov't but it'd be nice to see some mechanism (it SHOULD be customer outrage, sadly we are eager to simply roll over and accept the status quo) that compels a company to maintain CURRENT support through the life of the device("life" = the 2 year contract) and maybe then some, yes this becomes a sticky situation not unlike android and it's various versions out there, but why should a customer buy a device that is out of date software-wise before their contract is up?
this and the fact that i don't want a physical keyboard are the 2 biggest reasons i have yet to buy a webOS device. i REALLY want to support it, i love many of the features, but even with hp's backing i'm not confident they're doing it right. this is another example of a business that contiues to "succeed" based on keeping its customer base ignorant, and for the information age, that's such an antiquated way of thinking.
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aaronaut

PS the OTHER problem, and this isn't exclusively hp's problem, but aren't we passed the days of announcing a product that's "coming soon" with "pricing and/or availability to be determined"? seriously, if HP of all companies can't lock down a day their stuff will be available who can? oh wait, apple can. microsft did with the latest xbox.
i'm sure part of the delay is carrier relation non-sense, but honestly, "coming soon" is also something from a bygone era.
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hongkongbeef

If HP offers us existing pre/pixi users a STEEP discount on the Pre3 (<$50 on contract) and continue to offer the free wifi hotspot then I'd be fine sticking with my Pre+ without WebOS 2.0. It wouldnt hurt to throw in half off on the Touchpad as well. ;)
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aaronaut

i don't think they'll go to bat against the carriers (whom hp sees as its "REAL" customers) in support of its REAL customers, the consumers.
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aaron

Palm responded late this afternoon: blog.palm.com­/palm­/2011­/02­/thanks­-really­-for­-the­-f...
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radikal

kind of VAGUE! This is pretty lame
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radikal

you are right! wow, that is pretty awful for owners, android has this issue, but only on terrible phones. Older terrible phones. These phones are still up to date for the most part and I am kind of irritated that they would do that, I don't have a device but I dislike when tech does this.
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radikal

by the way! You can tell that HP is hurt by the leaving of their lead designer (Matias Duartez) and the design team. Android gained a lot, got the lead guy and he worked on honeycomb, and honeycomb is looking awesome
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jbrandonf

True. Look at how they changed notifications on the Touchpad..one of the coolest parts about webos was that the screen size was dynamic and would adjust based on whether notifications were present at the bottom of the screen
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Kouryuuk

It hurts me as a devout follower, but if they can really make up for it with a discounted phone, then It would sting less. HP wants to start fresh and I don't see a problem with that, they just shouldn't have promised it.
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enfantlune83

The way that HP Palm can make things right is to 1) heavily subsidize Pre 3 or Touchpads for existing owners on their carrier of their choice. Secondly, HP must provide the webOS community with an app marketplace to rival Android and iOS. I enjoy being exposed to media (podcast, magazines, television, etc), learning a company has an app and instantly downloading it onto my IPod touch. Whilst I do not care for the iOS GUI, I use it because the platform allows me to do the things I want to do and explore new interests. If HP cannot get more developers on board, I will leave the elegant and powerful webOS platform for apple.
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funkhouse5

The release of the Pre3 is coming too little too late. Wasn't there also supposed to be some sort of incentive for those of us with the version 1.4.5.1 versions. Same with the offering of the Pre3 - too little too late. The only thing I'd own as an HP product are their printers.

I'm about a week away now from FINALLY jumping to an Android phone.
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