For a gray-haired Silicon Valley icon, Hewlett-Packard sure knows how to throw its weight around.
The company announced today it's serious about delivering on its $1.2 billion investment in Palm, which it acquired last year, announcing two new smartphones (the tiny Veer and the Palm Pre 3), a tablet (the TouchPad), and additional PCs, all of which will run a spruced up version of the Palm WebOS.
Way to shake up the mobile market. Any developer stymied now about whether to develop for Apple iOS, Google Android, RIM BlackBerry OS, or Microsoft Windows 7 now will have to take into account the HP/Palm WebOS, which will literally run millions of devices beginning this spring, HP execs said.
"In the last 60 seconds we just sold 120 PCs," boasted Todd Bradley, executive VP of HP's system group, to a packed room of reporters and analysts. Emphasizing HP's sheer size, Bradley then announced the array of WebOS devices, all able to sync content with each other. "It's very clear we're in the early stages of a market that's going to dramatically grow in size and importance," he added.
"We've focused on how we can bring the scale of HP to WebOS," Bradley said, adding that "no one before today has come forward to develop a solution that works ubiquitously across these [phone, tablet, and PC] devices. We're announcing a WebOS solution that gives [customers] effortless access to all their data no matter what HP device they use."
These are fighting words in the emerging tablet wars, which many observers had assumed Apple had already won. It's ironic, considering that HP was already an old girl when Apple founder Steve Wozniak worked in its calculator division in the early 1970s.
Ex-Palm chief and now HP exec Jon Rubenstein took the stage and talked about the benefits of Synergy, the feature that will let customers easily sync up the data among apps on their WebOS tablets, phones, and eventually PCs. This is already available with WebOS, but the company has expended this feature to work across devices and across more apps.
"Synergy merges your apps from the cloud ... in an integrated, easy-to-use way. If something changes in the cloud, it's automatically updated on your phone," Rubenstein said, commenting on the "much larger stage" WebOS will play on.
Whizzy onstage demos showed tablet and smartphone data and applications seemlessly interoperating -- using a new feature called touch-to-share. Rubenstein showed that just tapping the Pre 3 to the TouchPad synced them up, with both devices showing the identical Web site almost instantaneously. The benefit: You can then walk away with either device without worrying about what app or data it contains.
Rubenstein announced the newest version of WebOS -- version 2.1 -- which retains its card- and stack-based interface and adds more than 50 enhancements, he said.
But HP's hardware announcements took center stage. Its Veer is a tiny smartphone with many of the capabilities of a high-end device, HP execs said. About the size of a credit card, it sports a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, a 2.6-inch 320 x 400 display, a gesture area, a full browser, built-in Flash, and support for such standards as HSPA+, 802.11 b/g, and Bluetooth 2.1. It's one of the first phones on the market to use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 7230 technology.
The Palm Pre 3 is another Qualcomm-centric device. Its display is two-and-a-half times the resolution of the Pre's current display, execs said. A true World Phone (with support for both HSPA + and EVDO), it carries a 3.6-inch display with 480 x 800 WVGA resolution. It also includes a 5-megapixel camera, will be available in 8-GB or 16-GB versions, and runs on the Qualcomm 1.3-GHz processor.
The Veer will be available this spring, and the Pre 3 will follow this summer, execs said.
Finally, HP unveiled the TouchPad, the first in a planned line of TouchPad tablets of various form factors. This first model, weighing in at just more than a pound and a half, is 13.7-mm thick and carries a 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 display. It includes a 1.3-megapixel webcam, and the tablet will be available in 16-GB and 32-GB versions, execs said.
The TouchPad also is Qualcomm-based – the tablet includes its dual core 1.2-GHz processor. Demos showing videoconferencing and 3D action games showed its speed.
Support for Google Docs, Dropbox, and Box.net is also included, HP execs said, as well as support for editing and viewing Microsoft Word and Excel apps, support for wireless printing, built-in games, and built-in Amazon Kindle support for reading books and newspapers.
All the devices announced today will work with HP's Touchstone charging and syncing technology. The tablet's Touchstone is more like an easel than the small, round Touchstone that the WebOS phones use.
While last week’s much hyped Google Android 3.0 event was disappointing, HP managed to do just the opposite here: provide actual demonstrations of real products. Not a bad start.
For InformationWeek, TechWeb, and BYTE.com, I’m Gina Smith.