Wednesday, February 09, 2011

HP's WebOS announcements: You mean there's no beef in this taco?

As I write this, HP's WebOS announcement in San Francisco just ended. The actual product announcements--the Veer and Pre3 smartphones, and the TouchPad tablet, are being well-covered by Engadget, CNET and others. However, what HP left out is at least as interesting as what it disclosed:
  • HP didn't announce a single carrier relationship, domestically or internationally, for its smartphones or tablet, except for Verizon, which will sell a now-obsolete Pre model.
  • Not a single reseller came out to commit to sell any of the products.
  • HP didn't give any hard delivery dates or prices, so it's impossible to say how any of the products will stack up against their iOS and Android counterparts.
  • The TouchPad will ship initially without 3G/4G support, and no carrier will bother with it until it has broadband support.
  • There was no mention whatsoever of battery life for the TouchPad, which is a bad sign--if it had great life, HP would have talked about it.
  • There will undoubtedly be more details tonight at HP's developer event in San Francisco, but most developers that haven't already committed to the WebOS platform are going to wait until prices and distribution deals are announced.
Near the end of the presentation, HP dropped a bombshell: It will port WebOS to its personal computers. This is clearly meant to "sweeten the pie" for software developers, but it doesn't mean anything until it's actually demonstrated. WebOS is designed to use a touch interface extensively, so porting it to a conventional PC is far from a "slam dunk". This announcement, however, has to have Microsoft shaking, since HP is its largest OEM customer for Windows. WebOS isn't going to be a complete substitute for Windows 7, but Microsoft has take the WebOS threat a lot more seriously than Google's Chrome OS.

In short, the bottom line from today's event is that HP's new devices might be really good, but we'll have to wait to see when we can get them and how much they'll cost.
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