Hewlett-Packard has introduced WebOS 2.0, the long-promised update to the open source OS it acquired during its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm in July. Additionally, HP, which has been keen to rejoin the lucrative smartphone market, introduced the Palm Pre 2-a speedier, updated version of the original Pre that will be the first smartphone to run the new OS.
The Pre 2-as was recently leaked-will arrive in the United States on the Verizon Wireless network, as well as in Canada, in "the coming months." However, the smartphone is first slated to debut on France's SFR.
"With WebOS 2.0, we're advancing the innovations we introduced 16 months ago, expanding the features that make WebOS great for consumers, enterprises and developers," said Jon Rubinstein, the former head of Palm and now the senior vice president and general manager of the Palm Global Business Unit at HP, in an Oct. 19 statement. "We've made tremendous strides since the platform launched, and now we're taking our biggest leap forward with powerful new features that make it easier to get more things done with your WebOS device."
Among those strides are application experiences "not available on any other platform," according to HP. In addition, HP is offering developers an "unparalleled" degree of openness.
Among the features unique to WebOS 2.0 are:
- "True Multitasking"-Users can pause a game, reply to an e-mail, check their calendar and return to the game without closing anything. A feature called Stacks also "logically groups together" open applications, making them reportedly easier to use and move between.
- Just Type-Users can start searching or typing an e-mail or text before an app is fully launched. The feature is also open to developers, so they can integrate this shortcut capability into their work.
- HP Synergy-The first time a user signs into his or her Facebook, Google, Microsoft Exchange, Yahoo or LinkedIn account, the account information is instantly populated into the phone.
- Exhibition-This feature enables the device to run apps specifically designed for use with the Palm Touchstone.
Additionally, WebOS 2.0 supports a beta version of Flash Player 10.1 in the browser, so that the content users can browse isn't limited; it can be used with Skype Mobile; it has a phone interface that's been smartened up; it's compatible with enterprise VPNs; there's a Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite, for viewing Microsoft Office documents; it supports Bluetooth keyboards and other peripherals; and there are many more features for developers-which HP surely hopes will help to grow the (also newly redesigned) Palm App Catalog.
In short, it's WebOS but "ratcheted up a few notches," as HP PR spokesperson Paul A. penned on the Palm Blog.
HP also gave the Pre 2 a boost. The smartphone now sports a 1GHz processor, so it'll be a lot faster than the first Pre, and the camera is now up to 5 megapixels. The overall form factor has also been streamlined a bit, and the screen is now glass.
In early 2011, HP will also launch a tablet device running WebOS that's intended to compete with the Apple iPad. Since its purchase of Palm, HP-a PC maker that turned to making smartphones-has taken another step in Apple's footprints, with the ability to offer its own hardware and software.
"I think it's important to have control over the entire user experience and really deliver great consumer products," Rubinstein said in July at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference. "If you really want to deliver a great experience, in this case, the HP experience, you want your own OS."
Palm originally debuted the Pre on the Sprint network-a move analysts called a mistake-and then negotiated updated versions of its Pre and Pixi, the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus, onto the AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless networks. Neither Verizon nor HP has yet offered pricing details for the Palm Pre 2.