HP debuts Veer and Pre3 phones, TouchPad tablet--and will ship webOS for PCs
Now we know what HP's been doing with Palm since it spent $1.2 billion to buy that company last year: developing an answer to the iPad and giving itself something besides Windows to ship on its PCs.
At an event in San Francisco, HP introduced the TouchPad tablet that it plans to sell sometime this summer. This 1.6-pound tablet, with a 9.7-inch touchscreen, WiFi Internet access and 1.3-megapixel Webcam, runs a version of the webOS software from Palm's current Pre and Pixi phones.
That means it already does multitasking better than Android and Apple's iOS, though it also puts the TouchPad far behind current and upcoming Android tablets, as well as the iPad, in terms of software availability. And if you already have a webOS phone, you'll apparently be able to sync much of your phone's contents over by using the same Palm account on the tablet.
The TouchPad will include video-calling support and run Flash in its browser (a possible advantage over the Flash-proof iPad, to the extent that Adobe's multimedia software doesn't slow down the machine or drain its battery). And it will print wirelessly to compatible HP printers.
But will it give the iPad some overdue honest competition? I have no idea without knowing a price, and HP has yet to breathe a word about that. It may be a good sign that the TouchPad will debut as a WiFi device; although 3G and 4G versions will follow, wireless carriers can't sandbag its launch with bizarre service-plan schemes as some did with Samsung's Galaxy Tab.
The TouchPad's battery life also remains a mystery.
HP also introduced two webOS phones.
The tiny Veer, barely longer or wider than a credit card with just a 2.6-inch screen, will ship this spring in a version for GSM carriers (and will support the "HSPA+" mobile broadband AT&T and T-Mobile market as "4G").
HP didn't cite a price for the Veer (pictured at left), nor did it identify a carrier.
HP's Pre3 is a little bigger than the Pre2 it announced in October and is about to ship for Verizon. Its taller size accommodates an expanded, higher-resolution display, at 3.58 inches and 480 by 800 pixels. But at .63 inches, it will be one of the thicker phones on the market when it ships sometime this summer -- again, at an unannounced price -- in versions for GSM as well as the CDMA technology of Sprint and Verizon.
Almost two hours into its keynote (I tip my cap to Engadget's Joshua Topolsky for liveblogging the whole thing), HP announced something nobody had expected: It will bring webOS to PCs.
The company didn't offer any details about that, but there is no way anybody at Microsoft can be happy about the prospect of the world's largest PC manufacturer deciding it no longer requires Windows on a computer.
First, though, HP needs to sell some phones and tablets -- preferably one of each to the same buyer. Some of the most interesting features shown off at its event require you to use both a TouchPad and a webOS phone: for example, taking a phone call on the tablet or tapping the two devices together to send a Web page from phone to tablet.
And the problem for HP isn't selling a second webOS device to somebody who already owns one -- it's selling the first one to somebody who owns none.
2/10, 2:58 p.m. Two other stories have provided additional details about HP's Palm plans (note that although the company didn't use the Palm name in its presentation, it used the palm.com site to post descriptions of the upcoming products).
First, PCMag.com writer Mark Hachman talked to a few HP executives to gather a few more insights about the company's plans to Palm's webOS on PCs, as well as devices like printers. They're still not saying how, exactly, that will work--whether it will be an alternate operating system to use instead of Windows, a complete replacement or some sort of add-on to it--but they did speak in more detail about how webOS can provide a better touch-driven interface, how it can allow easier syncing of data between mobile devices and PCs, and how a bigger installed base could boost webOS's appeal to developers.
That piece credits the webOS App Catalog with almost 7,000 apps, which is about even with the selection for Microsoft's much newer Windows Phone 7 and not too far behind the total for Research In Motion's BlackBerry App World. But it's dwarfed by the hundreds of thousands of titles available in Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market.
Second, Engadget's Nilay Patel reported that Palm won't ship a promised webOS 2.0 update to its older Pre, Pixi, Pre Plus and Pixi Plus phones. His post cites Palm general manager Jon Rubinstein as saying that those devices don't have the processing power and system resources to run webOS 2.0 adequately, but that HP will do "something special" for their owners when HP's new Palm devices arrive.
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