This is good news. As recently as March, Palm and its webOS had a very bleak future. HP's $1.2 billion acquisition of the smartphone maker has breathed new life into Palm, and this is the first ray of light we've seen.
Speaking at Fortune's Brainstorm conference, Former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein casually mentioned that webOS 2.0 will be available "later this year." He wasn't more specific than that, and also failed to mention any new features in the operating system.
In the 13 months since its release, webOS has gone from 1.0 to 1.4.5. Most of the changes wrought by the periodic updates to webOS in that time have been bug fixes and other tweaks. The last major update -- webOS 1.4 -- came in February.
WebOS 1.4 added the ability to capture and edit video. It also allowed users to share their video via MMS, YouTube, and Facebook. At the time, Palm said that the calendar, phone, messaging, and email apps were all given new features, such as short cuts that allow users to jump from one app to another faster. WebOS 1.4 also included better notifications. The gesture area below the screen, for example, pulses when new messages have arrived. Palm said webOS 1.4 also introduced system-wide speed and usability improvements.
Rubinstein also added that the company is working "aggressively" on new hardware. That's also good, because the Pre and Pixi phones were not the best hardware to accompany webOS. The Pre and Pixi are available from AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless. Sprint launched the Pre in June 2009, with the Pixi following in October 2009. Verizon launched the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus in January 2010. AT&T added Palm's smartphones to its lineup just a couple of months ago.
During the same event, HP's Personal Systems Group Vice President Todd Bradley said that the company would debut a Windows 7-based tablet as an enterprise product this fall. It will not be targeted at consumers.
This last bit is interesting because it muddies the waters a little bit about the future of a webOS-based tablet. HP was recently awarded a trademark for "PalmPad", which strongly implies a product based on Palm's webOS platform.
There's been a lot of back-and-forth with HP in recent months and its plans to bring a "slate" or "tablet" style device to market. HP has not formally announced a new product.
Bradley didn't provide more details beyond the general availability.