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Palm’s owner, Hewlett-Packard, has finally revealed its first offerings in the smartphone market.
HP’s Jon Rubinstein unveiled the HP Veer — a tiny smartphone with a slide-out keyboard that’s just about the size of a credit card — and the Pre 3 — the next generation of the Pre smartphone line — at an event in San Francisco today. Both phones run on Palm’s WebOS mobile operating system. HP also unveiled the HP TouchPad, a 9.7-inch tablet running WebOS.
The Veer is a tiny little thing, with a screen that’s around 2.6 inches long. It has the same amount of memory as the Palm Pre 2, and uses Qualcomm’s SnapDragon 800 MHz processor. It has a 5 megapixel camera and can act as a mobile router for five wi-fi enabled devices. The Veer will be available in early spring.
The Pre 3 also has a slide-out keyboard and looks pretty similar to the Pre and Pre 2. It has a 3.6 inch display running at a 480 by 800 pixel resolution. The Pre 3 has a 5 megapixel camera that shoots HD video and has a forward-facing camera for video calling. The phone has the same memory as the Pre 2, and has either 8 or 16 gigabytes of storage. It also uses a Qualcomm SnapDragon processor, which runs at 1.4Ghz. The Pre 3 will be available this summer.
The HP TouchPad, HP’s first WebOS-powered tablet, weighs just more than 1.5 pounds and is around 13mm thick. The tablet is 9.7 inches long and has a 1,024 by 768 pixel resolution display. It has a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera for video calling as well. The tablet has 16 or 32 gigabytes of storage and twice the memory of the Palm Pre 2, and uses a dual-core Qualcomm SnapDragon processor that runs at 1.2Ghz. A wi-fi enabled tablet will be available this summer, and 3G and 4G tablets will come out later this year.
Each device can synchronize with other WebOS devices using HP’s Touchstone software. That means if a user receives a text message on their phone, they can see the message on other WebOS-enabled devices — and share a number of other apps. Users can, for example, touch a TouchPad with a Pre 3 phone and transfer whatever is on the screen on the TouchPad to the Pre 3.
Since purchasing Palm, HP has thrown its weight behind the smartphone manufacturer. HP added a hundred or so engineers to Palm’s staff, said Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP’s personal systems group. WebOS will serve as HP’s way to generate a seamless flow of information between multiple devices, Bradley said.
“As part of HP, we’re now presenting from a much larger stage,” said Rubinstein, Palm’s chief executive before HP purchased the company.
It seems like it was just yesterday that Palm made a last-ditch effort to take on the iPhone with the Palm Pre. What we got was a pretty slick phone with multitasking and a mobile operating system, WebOS, that wasn’t quite a match for the iPhone but that would go on to do much greater things.
Palm had high hopes for its WebOS mobile operating system. The phone manufacturer said it expected thousands of developers to quickly begin making applications for the platform. Unfortunately, all those developers flocked to the iPhone operating system, and then to Google’s Android operating system. To date, there are around 300,000 apps on the Apple App Store and around 100,000 on the Android marketplace.
Palm’s woes mounted when it saw a number of its top developers leave for greener pastures. WebOS user interface designer Matias Duarte left Palm to work on Android at Google, WebOS notification mastermind Rich Gerringer moved to Apple, and former senior VP of product development Mike Bell went to Intel. Peter Skillman, the lead designer behind the Palm Pre, then decided to take off.
It seems like nothing was going right for the phone manufacturer. Sprint Nextel’s highly publicized launch of the Palm Pre smartphone failed to turn around losses in the company’s subscriber base. In the quarter after the Pre’s launch, the company lost $384 million — compared to a $344 million loss in the same period a year ago. Part of that probably had to do with Palm waiting to launch the phone until after Apple released the iPhone 3GS.
HP announced it would buy palm for $1.2 billion after a relatively weak launch of its Pre and Pixi devices. During a conference call discussing the acquisition, HP executives emphasized that the deal to acquire smartphone maker Palm was about more than phones — they clearly had much higher aspirations for the mobile operating system.
It looks like things have come full circle, with HP throwing its weight behind WebOS. We’ll update this story with specs and additional details as the presentation goes on.