Jon Rubinstein Compares HP’s WebOS to Mac OS X

In a letter to employees, Jon Rubinstein, senior vice president and general manager of HP’s Palm Global Business Unit, told employees not to worry about the negative reviews that the company’s new TouchPad media tablet received, and he likened the OS running the device, webOS, to Apple’s own Mac OS X in terms of both its potential and early reception.

HP TouchPad

HP TouchPad

Mr. Rubinstein is a former Apple executive who left the company to become Palm Inc.’s CEO, where he eventually orchestrated the sale of his company to HP. The HP TouchPad was the first major new product to come out of that acquisition, but it has been broadly panned in the mainstream and tech media alike as sluggish, buggy, and slow, and the form factor has been characterized as bulky and outdated compared to Apple’s iPad 2.

For instance, Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal and AllThingsD criticized the lack of apps, called it “glitchy,” “bulbous,” “heavy,” and found that Flash didn’t work well (which is the case, it seems, on every mobile device). On the other hand, he also said that it had a “clever interface” that he “liked a lot.”

It’s that aspect of mainstream reviews that Mr. Rubinstein focused on in his internal letter to employees, where he wrote, “If you’ve seen the recent TouchPad reviews you know that the industry understands HP’s vision and sees the same potential in webOS as we do.”

He also said that HP was already aware of and working on many of those criticisms, and that some of them would be addressed soon in an over-the-air update to the device. He encouraged employees to take the long view on webOS, noting, “We still have work to do to make webOS the platform we know it can be, but remember…it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Mr. Rubinstein also showed that his ambition and aspirations are not limited in scope, comparing his company’s webOS to his former company’s Mac OS X. He said that Richard Kerris, another former Apple executive who left with Mr. Rubinstein to go to Palm (and then to HP), had reminded him that Mac OS X was also met with derision and dismissal when it was first introduced.

For instance, reviewers then wrote such things as, “…overall the software is sluggish,” “…there are no quality apps to use, so it won’t last,” and “…it’s just not making sense.”

“It’s hard to believe these statements described MacOS X - a platform that would go on to change the landscape of Silicon Valley in ways that no one could have imagined,” he wrote, adding, “Like David Pogue, our audiences get that webOS has the potential for greatness.”

In short, Mr. Rubinstein argued that webOS is at the beginning stages of developments, and that it’s a platform, not a single media tablet. It would also seem that he believes it has the same potential as Apple’s Mac OS X to revolutionize the computing and/or mobile space the way Mac OS X did in the form of iOS.