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HP plays its Palm cards: WebOS 2.0, Pre 2

Six months after it bought Palm, Hewlett-Packard showed its first big plans for that purchase when it unveiled updates to Palm's webOS software and Pre phone.

pre2_cards.jpg

The new webOS 2.0 -- officially "HP webOS 2.0" -- adds a "just type" feature that lets you start such actions as composing an e-mail or launching a Web search by typing out text. It enhances the Synergy feature, which lets you view calendars, contacts and messages from such sites as Google or Facebook, by letting developers write plug-ins supporting other services. And webOS 2.0, like Google's Android but unlike Apple's iOS, will include Adobe's Flash 10.1 player.

Weirdly, HP's press release leads off its list of webOS 2.0 features with a mention of "true multitasking." That's been part of webOS from the start -- and is still one of its strongest features, as Palm's software makes it simpler to see what apps are open and switch among them than iOS or Android.

HP plans to offer webOS 2.0 as an over-the-air upgrade for Palm's older Pre and Pixi phones "in the coming months," but spokeswoman Leslie Letts didn't say whether it would be a free upgrade.

The Pre 2, pictured above, will first ship in France on Friday but will come to Verizon Wireless later in the year. It doesn't look like an enormous advance over the device I reviewed last summer; its 1 GHz processor and 5-megapixel camera improve on earlier hardware, but many of its other specs remain unchanged.

PCMag.com's Sascha Segan has a good hands-on report on both webOS 2.0 and the Pre 2, which notes usability issues with Just Type and Flash and concludes that what Palm needs most is a renewed lineup of hardware. I agree. And I'd add that in addition to new phones, it could use a tablet computer -- to which webOS 2.0 seems far better suited than Windows 7, the software used in a different HP tablet project.

Palm owners, what do you think of HP's news today? Does this give you more hope for your platform?

By Rob Pegoraro  | October 19, 2010; 2:09 PM ET
Categories:  Gadgets, Mobile  
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Comments

Segan bends over backward to praise the new software and Pre, but the article is not convincing. Flash 'runs' only when the user turns off a 'click-to-Flash' default setting by invoking Flash content. Other functions either stop or slow down until the Flash is turned off again. Segan acknowledges that Apple would never accept such a compromise. He is right.

Posted by: query0 | October 19, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

We have two Palm Pre's. The original sprint one and the Palm Pre Plus on AT&T.

We love it. It is the best alternative if you want a phone that is a close to being a desktop computer and if you like a physical keyboard. Also like the iPhone and unlike Android, Web OS is highly intuitive.

Web OS is wonderful. Yes the older processor was slow but that seems to be rectified.

Also, HP has said that new devices are coming early next year so that sounds promising.

All in all a great phone like the iPhone except with a physical keyboard.

Posted by: V4RGH3S3 | October 19, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Ever hopeful. I still have a Palm standalone PDA which has taken a licking and keeps on ticking. The best news is the fact that Palm now has HP’s deep pockets. The HP announcement that it is “the Next Generation of Mobile Innovation” is the usual advertising hyperbole.

Since “webOS now supports a beta of Adobe Flash Player 10.1”, I would be wary of Adobe anything on a phone in beta version, even if as Mr. Segan claims it “works”. So did greed, according to Gordon Gekko.

Gimme a Palm phone with the big screen of a Droid X and a virtual keyboard. The only thing I would ever type would be logins to my e-mail accounts. I don’t want to be a thumb jockey.

Facebook? Twitter? Fuggeddaboutit.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | October 19, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

This was expected, the expected upgrade to 2.0 and the new hardware on Verizon.
HP has announced a Web OS tablet for early 2011 Rob, so that's on the horizon.
I've had a Pre on Sprint since day 1, love Web OS, eagerly awaiting new hardware.

Posted by: patchss | October 20, 2010 12:53 AM | Report abuse

In response to query0: Apple doesn't compromise, they tell you how you will think, do and live when you use their devices. So on an Apple device you don't get the web, you get what they decide you will get on their device from the web. As Sascha Segan stated when referring to an Apple device, ".... It's more of the Web than you'd see otherwise. And if you don't want to invoke Flash, you have the choice to not press the play button. Overall, it's a net plus for WebOS." It is also an overall positive for choice. HP WebOS is different in that way compared to Apple: it gives you the freedom to choose. The solution is actually very elegant - it is user choice.

Posted by: flashlite | October 20, 2010 1:22 AM | Report abuse

Is this phone better than it's predecessors? Yes. But, we can't help thinking that this phone can only be an update of a basic webOS device until a variety of models are developed and debut next year. The Palm Pre 2 will aid HP (Palm) bridge the gap between this year's holiday season and next year's selling season. Also, it will allow them to continue to tweak the UI for their up and coming webOS products.

What's good about this phone? It does everything easier and quicker than any other phone presently on the market. Everyone who has had one knows every other UI is a step down.

On the flip side, there are some drawbacks. For instance, it currently lacks some common features: Voice Commands: Visual Voice Mail: Camera Zoom: Email Batch Functions and Threading: Instant Page Top & Bottom: Dual Cameras: and others. (There are reports that Visual Voice Mail is coming very soon.)

My novice advise to HP is to provide something no one else has and that will get people compelled to buy their webOS devices products apart from their UI.

iOS has everything Apple.

Android has everything Google.

WP7 has everything Microsoft.

What does HP have to offer? And, printers are not going to sell webOS. One suggestion is they should provide a syncing portal: I call it "webOSync." Connect to your computer and sync everything you want. Knowing Palm, they will take it to a whole new level and beyond. But, that still falls short.
HP still needs to find it's identity. What will everything HP mean to webOS?

Posted by: Prenooz | October 20, 2010 3:29 AM | Report abuse

Yes, it does give me more hope. I have owned my Sprint Pre since Aug 2009 and I am just as happy with it now, if not more, than when I first bought it more than a year ago. Sure there are technical reasons to love it such as true multitasking since the underlying OS is UNIX but it also has a very satisfying interface - it works the way an interface should work as if I, or someone smarter and more talented than me, designed it. I don't care too much about Flash since it will probably be resource-hungry and many Flash-based sites are a waste of bandwidth - lots of glitz, not much info. Still, I am excited about 2.0 and hope that it brings in more users (a guy can dream, can't he?!)

Posted by: lshekter | October 20, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

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