The two smartphones Hewlett-Packard announced yesterday elicited barely a shrug, and its forthcoming TouchPad tablet is hardly more compelling than the dozens of Android tablets and RIM Playbook tablet on the nearer horizon. So why is HP suddenly considered so upwardly mobile?
In a word, WebOS. In many respects, it was ahead of its time as a mobile operating system, and with the enhancements announced yesterday, it's that much more compelling on a tablet. The card metaphor works well: Any application, or piece of data, can be a card that appears on the tablet screen, and users swipe through them. It’s mulitasking at its easiest. HP has added the concept of stacked cards, where users can keep related items (Web pages, for example, or e-mails).
HP has included a very convenient notification feature. Just tap on the notification icon and instant messages, e-mails, and other items appear in a digest. Swipe through the digest of e-mails, for example, and the subjects appear, letting the user select a message and launch the e-mail application itself. Very handy.
Synergy, included in the first version of WebOS, was the industry's first attempt to keep all social contacts in a central, unified place for easy access from any other social application. Now, HP has added other data to the mix. For example, users can get a unified view of photos stored on the device mixed in with Facebook photos, and those from other photo-sharing services (each service is clearly marked).
Of all the new WebOS capabilities, Touch-To-Share is the most innovative feature. View a demonstration of this feature, along with other WebOS enhancements, in the video directly below. For a blow-by-blow of all of HP’s announcements, read the archive of our live blog from the event and see our image gallery. If you're viewing a Web page on the TouchPad, for example, but you need to become mobile and take a Pre3 smartphone with you, by simply tapping the Pre3 onto the TouchPad the Pre3 will assume and display the same Web page (or whatever content is on the tablet screen).
Further implications make things even more interesting. Imagine having a WebOS camera, tapping it on a WebOS printer, and getting a high-quality photo printout. Imagine loading directions on a WebOS PC (more on that later) and tapping your WebOS phone and getting navigation on your phone. Naturally, these scenarios require an HP-centric technology world.