HP today finally unveiled the next generation of Palm’s mobile operating system, WebOS 2.0, as well as its next flagship device, the Palm Pre 2. But while WebOS 2.0 seems like a nice upgrade, the same can’t be said for the minimally revamped Pre 2.
WebOS 2.0 is the first major upgrade to the operating system since Palm introduced it 16 months ago — seemingly an eternity in mobile development years. Since then, Palm released slight hardware revamps earlier this year with the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus on Verizon, and HP bought Palm for $1.2 billion in April. It’s also now being referred to as “HP WebOS 2.0”, which means we can expect it on HP devices outside of the Palm family.
What’s new in WebOS 2.0? HP is touting that it will support “True Multitasking”, which seems to be a refined version of the original OS’s multitasking coupled with something called “Stacks” — a feature that groups together your open applications logically. The new “Just Type” feature will allow you to start an email, send a message, search a website, or update your status without opening an app. It will also be open to developers, who can create shortcuts called “Quick Actions” to take advantage of the Just Type feature.
The new operating system is also extending the capabilities of Synergy, Palm’s technology that unified email and social networks. Developers will now be able to create new messaging, contacts, or calendar sources for Synergy to take advantage of.
For Palm users who really love their Touchstone charging docks, a new mode called “Exhibition” will let users run apps specifically designed for the dock. It could, for example, show your daily agenda, or display a slideshow of Facebook photos. The feature will let developers either highlight certain features of existing applications, or create entirely new apps devoted to Exhibition.
Other WebOS 2.0 features include support for the Adobe Flash Player 10.1 beta release, Skype Mobile (only on Verizon), a new Facebook app, and more.
As for the Palm Pre 2, it doesn’t appear that much different from the original Pre on the surface. It sports the same portrait slide-out keyboard and 3.1-inch screen — the biggest disappointment to me, since webOS screams to be unleashed on a larger screened mobile device. It also makes the Pre 2 an exceedingly tough sell when screen sizes around 4-inches are becoming increasingly common on Android devices.
The Pre 2 does sport a nicer 5 megapixel camera, and its rumored to be packing a faster CPU — although HP hasn’t confirmed that yet. Overall, it’s a disappointment as a hardware refresh because it can’t really compete with newer phones coming out today. HP did say that it had plans for multiple WebOS phones, so perhaps the Palm Pre 2 won’t remain its flagship device for too long (perhaps we’ll actually see the fabled touchscreen-only WebOS device). Still, the Pre 2 is likely all the company has for the holiday season, which doesn’t bode too well for HP.
HP says that the Pre 2 will hit the French carrier SFR on Friday, and will reach the U.S. on Verizon “in the coming months.”