Friday, September 14, 2012 at 11:59 am.

Now Imagine If Amazon Had Bought Palm And WebOS

Jeff Bezos

Tuesday night, while everyone was gearing up for Wednesday’s iPhone 5 event, the reviews for Amazon’s new Kindle Fire HD tablets went online. The consensus seems to be: Amazon’s hardware is solid, its media ecosystem is vast, its prices are low, but its software is mediocre — at best.

That sounds about right. While it’s impressive that Amazon is a major tablet player at all, its user interface design and software have always been weak spots. Especially compared to Apple, the tablet maker to beat.

So here’s an interesting exercise: Imagine if Amazon had acquired Palm and WebOS instead of HP. While WebOS and HP’s TouchPad tablet were ultimately failures — and the deal timing doesn’t really work — it may have resulted in a more interesting partnership and more successful products.

What WebOS did well is exactly what Amazon’s Kindle Fire needs: A beautiful, clever interface, second only to Apple’s. (And even better than iOS in some ways.) Combined with Amazon’s expertise in e-commerce, digital media, and its aggressive pricing, a Kindle TouchPad might be an even more compelling device than what Amazon has built on its own.

There are some major problems with this idea, of course. Amazon’s app ecosystem mostly exists because companies are already developing for Android. Building the Kindle Fire around WebOS would have meant far fewer apps, at least in the short-term. Or perhaps the WebOS team could have remade its user interface for an Android-based tablet, but who knows how long that would have taken or if it would have been any good. (Not to mention any economic or logistical problems with this combination.)

But, still, an interesting idea! Jeff Bezos clearly cares about becoming a great tablet maker, and Palm’s team — led by ex-Apple executive (and now Amazon board member!) Jon Rubinstein — might have helped. It’s hard to imagine Amazon blowing the Palm acquisition worse than HP did. It might have even been a great combination.

At Amazon: The $199 Kindle Fire HD and $299 Kindle Fire HD 8.9.