Palm Chief Talks Up New webOS Mobile Devices in the Pipeline

SAN FRANCISCO -- Don't count Palm, the company that virtually created the smartphone industry, out of the game. That was one of the messages Palm's former CEO Jon Rubinstein had for attendees here at the Web 2.0Summit on Tuesday.

Of course Palm is "out" in one sense; it's no longer an independent company thanks to HP's$1.2 billion purchase of Palm earlier this year.

But Rubinstein, who now heads Palm's operation within HP (NYSE: HPQ), said the influx of investment and talent to his team as a result of the buyout is setting the stage for big things to come.

"We have several products that will clearly be hits when they come out,"said Rubinstein, during an on stage interview with Web 2.0 Summit program chair, John Battelle.

Interestingly, Rubinstein said Palm's highly regarded webOS will find its way into printers in the coming months. Though he didn't elaborate, HP has made a number of moves this year to facilitate printing from the Weband mobile devices, so getting webOS into the printer mix would seem to fit with that strategy.

"You'll see multiple devices and HP in the middle of all this," said Rubinstein. "Our objective is to deliver a unified HP experience with tablets next year and webOS printers in the future and other ideas I'm not ready to talk about."

Rubinstein said HP continues to have a very close partner relationship with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) related to PCs. And even in devices, HP recently unveiled a Windows 7 tablet designed for enterprise users.

But he confirmed HP plans to use Palm to build more integrated products, along the lines of the iPhone, where the company can control both the hardware and software. "In the device space that's where you want to belong term," he said. "You have to go this way. That's my personal opinion, but I know HP feels that way too."

Rubinstein said the group behind the Windows 7 tablet at HP is separate from the Palm group. "It seems to be selling well. If you have a corporation using systems based on the Windows platform, it's a great product," he added.

Palm's edge with webOS going forward, according to Rubinstein, is that it's designed for leading edge development, namely the Web and cloud computing.

"The original concept around this was that there would be connected devices. That hasn't changed at all," he said.

Battelle pushed on the point that Palm faces formidable established competition from the likes of Apple, RIM and Android. But Rubinstein said there was plenty of room for multiple players and he thinks Palm's innovative features and HP's backing will make it a top tier contender.

He said webOS already stands out with a number of features including sophisticated multitasking and a Just Type search feature that does just what the name implies. "We see great things ahead," he said.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.


Palm, webOS, Web 2.0 Summit, enterprise tablet

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