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The Palm Pre was launched 10 years ago today



A decade ago I was sitting in a folding camping chair in front of a sprint shop somewhere in Central Florida. I was alone until about an hour before the store opened, and the snake never grew to more than a handful of people.

It was the launch date for the Palm Pre, and I knew immediately that the show in my small Sprint shopping center was a metaphor for what was to come.

Compared to the madness and hype of the iPhone launch two years earlier, the people who fought for the Pre were few, mostly ignored, but just as passionate as the iPhone fans. In a sense, because smaller groups and outsiders can be stricter in their beliefs.


Waiting for the original pre-launch on June 6, 2009

I've already written a bit about how webOS and the Pre were ahead of their time and inspired, if not directly, many of the features we have today for iPhones and Android phones for granted. The way you do multitasking, the appearance of your home bar, how notifications work, universal search, and wireless charging – the list of things webOS did on 06/06/2009 first, and in some cases correctly, is pretty long. I could go over it all over again, but not today.

(Typing the date reminds me that you could put webOS phones into developer mode, among other things, by simply typing "webos20090606" – which is deadly serious to me – type in the Konami code: upupdowndownleftrightleftrightbastart such a platform.)

It seems impossible to imagine that now, but webOS was incredibly open. The "web" in webOS was more than marketing or an indication that writing apps included HTML and Javascript. If you put the phone into developer mode, you can change the way it works and look like it does without jailbreaking, ROM replacement, or bootloader unlocking. You just put it in Dev mode, changed some HTML files, and changed your phone fundamentally.

Even Android, supposedly "open" operating system, was (and is) radically less active than webOS. Not only that, most Android phones have traditionally locked bootloaders and are limited by other gadgets. It was also much harder to hack on Android. You had to connect it to the computer and install custom ROMs, you had to have a lot of technical knowledge to create or change them – and you still do today.


Talking to HP / Palm employees about webOS, November 2010
PreCentral

By comparison, changing webOS was a breeze. And it got even better because in 2009 something incredibly special happened with respect to webOS. This is a small merit, if I boast of self: We have formed a vibrant, healthy, supportive and entertaining online community. [19659012] In 2009, I was head of a network of smartphone websites, then referred to as Smartphone Experts (now called Mobile Nations). At that time, the types of websites I operated were much more common than they are today. Each focused on a single smartphone platform and comprised a mix of news, reviews, commerce, service and community. I was a journalist, but since I ran the largest site on Palm, I was also a big part of this community.

The site for webOS was called PreCentral.net and evolved from an older community founded in 1999 by Marcus Adolfsson, VisorCentral . And it may seem strange in the days of Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook, but back in those days, the vBulletin forums were the best place to talk about these phones, and just a great place to talk.


Most of It The community was just these forums where we talked and helped fix problems. But there was also a large group of people who worked diligently and ethically to create a community to customize webOS. It was webOS Internals and I was lucky enough to work closely with them to make sure the Palm community understood what they were doing – because what they did was really something special.

In addition to the official Palm App Store For webOS, webOS Internals have put together tools to enable third party app stores and third party customizations – Preware. With their help, I built an app gallery on PreCentral that hosted over 7,000 apps and made over 111 million downloads. Palm provided us with an XML feed of its App Catalog early on-and just imagine Apple or Google-so we can have a complete list of all the individual webOS apps on our website, no matter how you use them As some of you may know, I met my wife through this community (and later had to share when she started working for Palm and now announces that she is currently working for Oculus). I found friends for life in this church and I know that other people did the same. I know that sounds really cheesy – but the whole community was just nice to each other and felt noticeably different than the "fanboy wars" that were already cooking between Android, iPhone and BlackBerry fanatics ( sorry friends, love you, but it is true).

I'll probably be linked to this platform for the rest of my life – if I post about it, my social media mentions are bursting with nostalgia. Much of it is just that we all feel special because we know that we are using a platform that was ahead of its time. But for some of us, the longing for this doomed super buggy operating system is actually the yearning for something else: a time when you could find a likeminded group of friendly people online that was the defining feature of most social Networks has become media today.


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