Palm’s Rebirth…As HP?

It’s barely been 8 months since HP finalized its takeover of Palm with a $1.2 billion buyout at a price of $5.70 per share of Palm common stock in cash. Needless to say, they haven’t been sitting on this purchase.

HP just announced in a press release that they will be releasing a tablet this coming summer with a Wi-Fi only version, followed by another model with 3G and 4G cellular connectivity a few months later. HP’s tablet is called the TouchPad and looks very much like the Apple iPad or the Motorola Xoom. It has the same 9.7-inch touchscreen and weighs 1.6 pounds all bundled in a shiny black case.

So, where does Palm fit into all this? Well, the operating system called WebOS is what will be running the TouchPad. When HP acquired Palm, their WebOS platform came with it. For those of you who purchased the Palm Pre or the Pixi that was released by Palm in 2009, you would have seen WebOS first hand as both models used it for their mobile operating system.

The HP TouchPad running on Palm's WebOS

The major feature that HP is touting is the TouchPad’s ability to simultaneously run several applications. With this device, users will be able to keep active applications running in the background while flipping through a list of open apps. The other software feature that will bound to be a hit with many users is their ability to run Adobe Flash to view video. Although Android and the upcoming offering from Blackberry also runs Adobe, Apple continues to shun Flash to promote its own QuickTime offering despite the fact that Flash is the most popular video format on the web.

In addition to being a cool tablet device, HP is also targeting business users. They are touting its video conferencing feature and are currently working with Skype and other software vendors to enable the TouchPad owners to easily talk to each other.

Personally, I don’t care too much for the name. After all, isn’t a touchpad already a computer term for a pointing device used to move a cursor around? I’ve got one staring at my right now on my laptop as I write this.

Moving onto the smartphone world, HP will also be releasing the Pre3 around the same time as the Wi-Fi enabled TouchPad, and will also be driven by same WebOS platform. The Pre3 is said to have a 3.6-inch touchscreen and has a slide-out physical keyboard for serious email users. It appears that HP is trying to make a serious run for business users and take away some of RIM’s target group for the Blackberry devices, while also battling Apple who is also making significant inroads to the professional crowd.

For the consumer-oriented crowd, HP unveiled a smaller phone called the Veer (Veer is an Indian name for “warrior”). It is a tiny 2.6-inch touchscreen and a slide-out keyboard that is just slightly larger than a credit card, and is scheduled to be released in early spring. It uses the Snapdragon processor developed by the semiconductor giant Qualcomm.

The HP Veer with a small 2.6" Touchscreen

All of these products will be branded under the HP name as it appears that they will be retiring the Palm brand. So, what was the Palm Pre will see the next generation phone as the HP Pre3. The other goal for HP is to create interoperability within their offerings to allow their products to communicate with each other with a system called “Touch-to-Share”, much like Apple with its Mac, iTunes, and iPhone/iPod/iPad ecosystem as well as its AirPlay and iTunes software. In addition to making information transfer easier, simple interoperability also increases brand loyalty.

I look forward to seeing HP’s offering to the mobile world over the course of 2011. They are going to start being more than just a computer and printer company for the general consumer in the very near future. For the full press release from HP, click here.

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