Today, HP showed off their new mobile devices, the first from (the formerly branded) Palm after their acquisition last year. Kelly’s said a few words already, but he hates a playa and that ain’t cool! As a former Pre owner, this announcement has been the most exciting tech news of the year. Palm never got a fair shake after Rubenstein took over and the company launched webOS two years ago, but with some great backing, we’re now seeing some awesome new stuff that’ll be out this summer. So with that said, let’s run down the devices that HP showed off today and get excited!
On The Small End: Veer
The 2.6″ Veer phone is the follow-up to the underpowered Pixi and this drastic update looks like a great phone for the casual user who just wants smartphone functionality, but without the hefty size or price. Ditching the Pixi’s fixed keyboard in favor of an arc slider form factor – like its big brother, the Pre – this is a great addition to the line that’s no bigger than a credit card (although naturally a bit thicker). It also sports an 800MHz processor more than ready to tackle most anything you throw at it.
The Big Brother: Pre3
With its third iteration, HP looks like it’s solving two of my biggest gripes with the original phone: shoddy build quality and a miniscule 3.2″ screen. HP bumped the screen size here to 3.6″ and as a few people saw with the Pre2, it looks like the build quality has gotten dramatically better. They’re also throwing in a 1.4GHz (!) processor, the first ever in a phone, along with other nifty upgrades. This would make a great second phone for whenever Windows Phone decides to land on Sprint…
The 800lb. Gorilla + The Reason I Love webOS: TouchPad
It’d be easy to dismiss the TouchPad as an iPad clone and let’s be honest, if the iPad didn’t exist, they probably wouldn’t even bother with this, but the reality is that webOS is the best mobile OS I’ve ever used and it’s going to be a much better tablet environment than any Android device. (Yes, even over Google’s own Honeycomb. Yeah, I went there.) webOS has the best multi-tasking operation ever implemented: each running app is a “card” and can be stacked with other, similar apps. When you’re done with one, you just flick it off the top of the screen. webOS is also gorgeous and looks to scale great to the larger, 9.7″ form factor that made the iPad famous. The TouchPad features a dual-core 1.2GHz processor and a gig of RAM onboard. Much like publishers did for iOS, Time, Inc. showed off a variety of magazines developed for webOS that look and run great on the device. I’ve been pining for an iPad for a while, but now that this baby’s on the way, the choice is clear. The TouchPad also has great cross-functionality with its sister models unveiled today. One involves wireless syncing with the phone so that if you get a text message on your phone, it simply appears as a notification on your TouchPad. The big bang however, was the Touch to Share tech that allows you to float your Pre3 or Veer over the edge of the tablet and grab cool items like open web pages and other data and have them pop up on your phone if you’re on the go.
Palm’s biggest problem, ironically, was that it was too small to sustain itself. webOS launched in Spring 2009 with a few dozen apps and a single, new phone after Palm ditched all of their previous form factors and experiments, popular and (mostly) unpopular. Sales didn’t come and app development was sluggish while people were jumping onto the Android bandwagon with phones that were being iterated monthly on all of the major carriers (the Pre was exclusive to Sprint for its first eight months). 2010 nearly destroyed the company when neither the Pre nor the Pixi (nor their introduction on Verizon) brought much money to the table, but HP threw out a liferaft and while the Palm branding is now gone, webOS lives on in, as we see here, exciting new form factors. The hardware looks solid, the OS looks solid, and HP plans to bring webOS to laptops later this year, but it still has a few hurdles laid before it: there’s simply not enough support yet. With even Windows Phone 7 about to pass it in total app count (itself only on the market for four months now), people are going to remain skeptical about HP’s chances here. My only hope is that HP promotes the heck out of these new devices and people latch on, because Rubinstein and his crew deserve it.