HP’s Think Beyond Event Summarized

David Liu February 11, 2011 0

After Heweltt-Packard bought Palm in July of last year, tech bloggers worldwide speculated as to the future of both the brand and its webOS, the mobile operating system widely touted as the most intuitive one on the market. Journalists drooled over the possibility of an HP tablet to compete with the then-new iPad, taking advantage of HP's far greater manufacturing ability and Palm's software superiority. At Wednesday's Think Beyond event, HP put an end to the rumors, announcing new tablets, phones, and systems—and, perhaps most significantly, that the Palm brand as we knew it was dead.


HP announced several updates to its dm1 and TouchSmart lines of computers, but what journalists were waiting for came later when the successors to the Palm Pre and Pixi as well as an all-new 9.7" tablet were revealed.


HP Pre3

No longer a Palm product, the third-generation Pre is on track to be one of the most powerful smartphones on the market in the coming months. Still a portrait QWERTY slider, the new Pre's form factor has not changed, but its internals have been tweaked and replaced to make it competitive. Its 3.6" screen benefits from increased resolution, now 800×480 pixels. It is equipped with a 5 megapixel auto-focusing camera with LED flash and a VGA front-facing camera for video calls. HP's new "touch-to-share" system lets the Pre3 interact with other webOS devices similarly equipped just by touching them together. The Pre3 also uses the Touchstone inductive charger first seen on the first-gen Pre. Powered by a lightning-quick 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU and outfitted with 512MB of RAM, the Pre3 is poised to be a seriously competitive entry to the high-end smartphone market by HP. Look for it this summer in 8GB and 16GB storage variants.


HP Veer

If you're not in the market for the fastest and most powerful device, the 2.6-inch Veer might fit your bill. It delivers webOS functionality and the Pre's form factor in a much smaller, presumably more affordable package: HP says it's "the size of a credit card and no thicker than a deck of cards." Under the hood, you'll find Qualcomm's 800MHz Snapdragon processor as well as the normal slew of smartphone connectivity bits: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 2.1, and various sensors. It's got the same 5MP camera as the Pre3 but no front-facing camera. The Veer is also Touchstone-compatible. Only an 8GB model will be made, and, strangely, there's no mention of expandable storage via microSD.


HP TouchPad

This is the big one, the product iPad-haters the world over have been betting on since HP acquired Palm: a 9.7", 1.6 lb. webOS tablet to go head-to-head with Apple's Goliath. The 16GB or 32GB TouchPad runs webOS 3.0, as compared to the phones, which use webOS 2.2. Although it's slightly thicker and heavier than the iPad, the TouchPad's internals are a generation ahead. Like the Veer and the Pre3, you'll find it's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, but unlike the phones, the TouchPad's processor is a 1.2GHz dual-core chip that should make it plenty quick. This seems to be the norm for the upcoming crop of next-gen tablets, however: both the Motorola Xoom's NVIDIA Tegra 2 and the BlackBerry PlayBook's Cortex-A9 processors are dual core. The TouchPad also has 1GB of RAM, matching Moto's and BB's offerings and exceeding the iPad's by a good 300%. Clearly, the iPad's update—reported by the Wall Street Journal to be in the pipeline—is necessary for Apple to stay competitive in the burgeoning tablet market.

Some of the more interesting and TouchPad-specific features include HP Synergy, which serves to merge your Gmail, Facebook, IM, and various other accounts into one program, and the aforementioned "touch-to-share" ability that lets you share URLs between the TouchPad and the smartphones with a simple touch. Inductive charging through a specialized stand (which differs from the round docks we're used to seeing with Touchstone) makes the TouchPad a bit more convenient.

It's good to see that HP hasn't let Palm's technology die out. Although the brand may be no more, its products—the Pre, Touchstone, and webOS—live on though HP's frankly excellent efforts. The coming year should be a great one for HP, and with this sort of competition, other mainstream manufacturers are really going to have to step it up a notch to keep their mobile products on consumers' radar.  {jcomments on}

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