Is it time for LG to do something bold with webOS?
The current smartphone market is incredibly crowded, especially in the world of Android. But at its heart, it’s quickly becoming a two-horse race between the behemoths of Samsung and Apple. Everyone else struggles to stay afloat on a quarterly basis. The last two contenders of Microsoft and BlackBerry have both adopted an “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude over the last couple of years, and this got me wondering if another player could actually challenge the market with a new alternative mobile operating system.
My first thought is NAH! Never going to happen! But the more I think about it the more I wonder if LG is missing an opportunity. They can’t seem to differentiate in the Android market. Samsung has a built a brand that makes it extremely difficult for LG to gain back share. LG just lost $160 million attributed to mobile in the last quarter. That road could be getting harder with Google themselves becoming an official player in the market with their Pixel phones. Now, the direct supplier of Android is also a competitor in hardware as well. And to make it worse, they seem to be having success.
The company could take the easy road of just being an OK Android manufacturer and supplement by sourcing materials for others smartphones (like the Pixel)….or they could do something bold and really shake up the space! I think it’s time for LG to truly utilize the remnants of webOS and release it from being a simple TV interface. The road may be bumpy at first. That net loss in mobile may grow during the short term, but LG has the backing to make the investment. The company racks up almost $50 billion each quarter in sales and has a net worth of $11 billion. They can weather the storm to make a run with another operating system. Their mobile division is their smallest product unit by far. They could easily make the difference back with a new washer or TV launch. Companies like Amazon are successful by taking a few-year loss to see a product thrive later on in the market. This has to be the way LG looks at any venture of webOS in mobile.
I’m not saying it would be easy, but I do think they should do it. I know I will catch a lot of fanboy flack for this post, and maybe deservedly so. Honestly, it’s a part of my theory. A completely new OS may not be the answer. However, the cult following of webOS faithful still exists and we would love to see the operating system returned to us with a modern refresh of the software and hardware. This fanboy following could be the difference in becoming another BB10 launch versus a viable platform. As owners of the BlackBerry Keyone can attest, nostalgia can go a long way for a product’s success.
You might say that webOS is dead, but I tend to disagree. The OS is alive and well in LG’s entire smart TV lineup. It’s even on a smartwatch the company launched back in 2015. It’s a far cry from the Palm glory days, but development is alive inside the company. One could even argue it’s more robust than ever. The lack of media apps was one of the main downfalls of the previous generations, but LG’s TV apps have bridged this gap with all the big guns like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu on board.
I’ll end my rant with this question: Can LG make a bigger long-term impact on mobile with webOS rather than Android? The easy short-term answer is no, but the long game is starting to point towards yes. They are consistently lost in the sheer amount of options offered by Android OEMs and the high end is being dominated by Apple and Samsung. You could make another parallel to the TV market here and say that LG was losing to Samsung with their new line of Tizen smart televisions and leveraged webOS into a successful competitor. Could they achieve a similar result with webOS in mobile? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!