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How Palm webOS Works

Unique webOS Features
The Palm Tungsten, released in 2002, ran on the Palm OS. Palm replaced its old operating system with the webOS in 2009.
The Palm Tungsten, released in 2002, ran on the Palm OS. Palm replaced its old operating system with the webOS in 2009.

Something webOS does that you won't find even on Apple's iPhone is its multitasking feature. WebOS can run multiple applications at a time where iPhone can only run one. The card view function is similar to what you would find on your desktop PC or Mac. When multiple applications are up and running, you can scroll or shuffle between cards and resume activity on whichever activity you desire.

In order to make all this information easy to navigate, webOS employs a banner notification feature. When you switch to a new application, you don't close the previous one. Instead, the application moves to the background and keeps doing whatever it was doing. If you're listening to a song, it keeps playing. If you were watching a gamecast of a football game on ESPN Mobile, it will continue to update through auto refresh as if you were still watching.

But wait -- if you have no way of receiving updates, what's the point? WebOS has two ways of keeping you notified of your background applications. These are popups and banners. Popups are dialog windows that stay up until you close them, while the banner feature gives you a scrolling message that stays up at the bottom of the screen within the notification bar.

At all times, you have the ability to scroll through your cards. The banner notifications don't interfere with your card's window and are independent, meaning you can look at one while keeping an eye on the other.

Dashboard panels are small summaries of information regarding specific open background applications. In this view, you have smaller cards and ambient information displayed in rows depending on the number of applications in use. For instance, if your music player is open, the dashboard panel allows you to pause a song without having to switch between or close down applications.

The notification bar and dashboard work together to keep you in the loop of what's going on behind the scenes. WebOS's seamless integration of multiple applications allows users to balance several tasks. The user interface and display make feedback easy to understand. When updates occur, you're immediately kept abreast. The combination of the card view, dashboard and notification bar is really what differentiates webOS from the rest of the competition. But is it enough to catapult Palm back into the forefront of smartphone technology? We'll take a look in the next section.