HP Rolls Out Updated webOS 2.0, Palm Pre 2

HP, a late participant in the smartphone frenzy, this week announced the release of webOS 2.0, -- an update to what was once considered a groundbreaking mobile operating system -- that will serve as the backbone for its new Palm Pre 2 line of smartphones and, eventually, its ambitious tablet PC plans.

Although the Palm Pre 2 will only be initially available in France on carrier SFR starting Friday, HP (NYSE: HPQ) said it will be available to U.S. consumer and enterprise customers in the next few months via the Verizon Wireless network.

The debut of the new mobile OS and Palm Pre 2 mark the first significant sign of life from HP on the smartphone front since it completed its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm back in April.

The Palm Pre 2 will include a 1 Ghz processor, a 5-megapixel camera, glass screen and what company official describe as a "sleeker, more streamlined" design that incorporates both a touchscreen and slide-out keyboard.

"With webOS 2.0, we’re advancing the innovations we introduced 16 months ago, expanding the features that make webOS great for consumers, enterprises and developers," Jon Rubinstein, senior vice president and general manager of HP's Palm global business unit, said in a statement. "We’ve made tremendous strides since the platform launched, and now we’re taking our biggest leap forward with powerful new features that make it easier to get more things done with your webOS device."

In the smartphone game, winners and losers will be chiefly determined by the enthusiasm -- or lack thereof -- from the developer community eager to build apps for the platform they deem most likely to generate revenue and momentum as the market shakes out.

With webOS 2.0, developers will have plenty to work with though it remains to be seen whether these new bells and whistles will have the staying power and "wow" factor necessary to keep pace with Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS and the white-hot Android mobile OS.

The new iteration of HP's webOS includes a multitasking feature that lets users easily switch between apps and stack tasks, the ability to start an email or instant message before launching an application and something called HP Synergy that allows users to connect with multiple communications services like Facebook and Exchange.

Perhaps most important, it provides support for Flash 10.1 and the bevy of streaming content options that entails, something that Apple has thus far ignored. It also provides VPN connectivity, something that potential enterprise customers will surely appreciate.

As a nod to the social networking and Skype-crazed crowd, webOS 2.0 will allow users to tag their favorite contacts so they appear in Phone and Contact views, meaning that when a user searches for a friend or coworker they immediately pop up at the top of the Contacts, Email, Messaging and Phone apps.

For Verizon Wireless subscribers, the eventual release of webOS 2.0 -- again available in "coming months" -- will support Skype-to-Skype calls and messaging.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


mobile, HP, Palm, webOS, mobile operating system