Mobile // Mobile Devices
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7/20/2010
10:33 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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HP's 'PalmPad' Trademark Might Signal Possible WebOS Tablet

Hewlett-Packard was recently granted a trademark for the name "PalmPad" by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Could it be a webOS tablet computer?

HP has already killed off two tablet PC projects this year -- one Windows 7 device and one Android device. Given the popularity and success of Apple's iPad, HP needs to get (back) into the tablet PC game quickly with a slate-style device. Is Palm's webOS the answer to HP's slate woes? It could be.

Apple has done a reasonably good job of adapting iOS for its iPad device. The iPad will be much more useful once iOS 4.0 becomes available for it later this year, though it will always have limitations. My experiences with Android-based tablets have left me wanting something more from them, though I can't quite place what it is. They feel incomplete. Palm's webOS applied to a tablet computer could really be interesting.

WebOS is a strong platform from a usability angle. It has a little bit of a learning curve to it (though all touch user interfaces do), but once you're up to speed, it is quite powerful. Take webOS's integration of email, Facebook, and other contacts in its Synergy application, for example. It does an amazing job of bridging disparate systems and ties them together in a way that makes sense and is useful. I have yet to encounter a better mobile contact management application. This app alone could be very useful in a larger computing device.

WebOS's use of "cards" for its multitasking system is fairly ingenius, and would really be fun to use in tablet form. On Palm's Pre and Pixi devices, I've had as many as four dozen applications running at a time. For power users, webOS's multitasking could be the ultimate at fast-app-switching with finger flicks.

For the time being, however, HP hasn't disclosed any plans. The trademark specifically applies to "Computers, computer hardware, computer software, computer peripherals, portable computers, handheld and mobile computers, PDAs, electronic notepads, mobile digital electronic devices," which leaves a lot of room for HP to make all sorts of webOS-based products.

I have no doubt that with the right combination of hardware, webOS could make a compelling tablet OS and a successful product line for HP.

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