Hewlett-Packard announced the latest version of Palm's operating system, webOS 2.0, and also unveiled the Palm Pre 2, the first Palm smartphone HP will release since it acquired Palm earlier this year.
HP said the new device will be available from SFR in France starting Friday and that Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) will launch the phone "in the coming months." Jon Runbinstein, Palm's former CEO and now the senior vice president and general manager of the Palm Global Business Unit at HP, said in a statement that the company is rolling out the biggest enhancements to the platform since its inception.
The new webOS will offer enhanced multitasking with a new feature called Stacks, which groups together open apps, as well as a beta version of Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Skype integration for Verizon customers and a new document viewer. Palm said that not only will webOS 2.0 ship on the Pre 2 but that the update will be delivered to existing customers in the coming months.
As for the Pre 2 itself, it is a definite upgrade from the original Pre, though not a revolutionary change. The device features a 1 GHz processor from Texas Instruments, a 3.1-inch glass display, 5-megapixel camera and 16 GB of storage.
HP executives have been hinting for months that new webOS devices would be forthcoming; the company expects to release a tablet early next year. Recently, the company has shifted resources to the Palm unit. Steven McArthur, who was the senior vice president of the company's consumer applications business, will now lead product marketing for Palm. Rubinstein and McArthur hinted last month that HP will deliver a cloud-based streaming music service to smartphones. Google said in May it plans to add a streaming music service to Android, though it did not specify when it will do so.
HP bought Palm in April for $1.2 billion after Palm's sales sputtered, despite widespread praise for the webOS platform. Verizon and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) launched Palm's phones in the early part of this year, but the webOS ecosystem never fully developed and sales lagged.
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