HP confirms that a "product" running Palm WebOS will debut in early 2011. Although confirmed details are scarce, the general assumption is that HP will launch WebOS on a tablet PC.
Hewlett-Packard confirmed during its Aug. 19 earnings call that a device
running its recently acquired Palm WebOS operating system will ship sometime in
early 2011. Although the company executive who confirmed the "product"
offered no other details, the general assumption is that HP will load WebOS
onto a tabletlike device.
"You'll see us with a Microsoft product out in the near future and a WebOS-based
product in early 2011," Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP's
Personal Systems Group, said during the call.
Rumors had previously suggested an early 2011 launch for a WebOS-based
tablet. HP acquired Palm earlier this year for $1.2 billion, leading to
speculation that the company would use the new assets to make an aggressive play
in both the smartphone and tablet spaces.
HP announced strong results for the third fiscal quarter of 2010, with net
revenues of $30.7 billion. Increased enterprise sales helped drive those
numbers, but company executives hinted at a lack of demand in the consumer
notebook market. As demonstrated by Apple's robust quarterly results, however,
a bestselling tablet device has the ability to add substantially to even a
large IT company's bottom line.
With that in mind, companies besides HP are also moving into the tablet PC
market. Dell recently released the Streak, a 5-inch touch-screen device, and LG
Electronics is reportedly hurrying to produce a tablet PC running Google
"Our tablet will be better than the iPad," Chang Ma, vice
president of marketing for LG's mobile devices unit, told
The Wall Street Journal on Aug. 19. "It's going to be surprisingly
Other rumors suggest that Research In Motion is working on an iPad
competitor of its own. While RIM has offered no confirmation of this, Mobile
Crunch reported in July that the company had purchased the domain BlackPad.com,
which could hint at a possible name for such a device.
HP's plans for the tablet space could be fairly elaborate, or at least
bifurcated: During July's Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, Bradley
was quoted as saying, "Our focus is working with still our largest
software partner, Microsoft, to create a tablet for enterprise business."
the conference, Bradley also said: "I think you'll see us with a
family of Slate products, clearly a Microsoft product in the enterprise, and a
WebOS product broadly deployed."
But creating a truly enterprise-ready Windows 7 tablet may require some
radical retooling of the operating system, according to some analysts.
"The tablet market that the iPad is exploring, Microsoft initially
identified and tried to target with the incomplete Origami effort," Rob
Enderle, principal analyst for the Enderle Group, told eWEEK July 29, referring
to Microsoft's ultraportable PC project. "Origami did showcase that
you could likely do an iPad-like product with a Windows core, but you'd need to
rethink the interface."
According to Enderle, "Either hardware would need to improve to provide
the performance and battery life needed, or Windows would have to be modified
to live under existing hardware limits, much as Apple did with ... the iPad."
During June's D8 Conference, Microsoft CEO
Steve Ballmer suggested that Windows could indeed be customized to fit the
needs of a lightweight, keyboard-free device. However, HP has given no
indication whether the "Microsoft product" due in the near future
will feature a modified version of Windows 7.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.