The second version of the Palm WebOS platform will launch on Friday in France as the operating system of the Palm Pre 2 handset, and will be delivered to existing customers as an update at a later date, HP announced on Tuesday.
The operating system, WebOS 2.0, brings a number of new and revamped options, including a Favourites option for tagging contacts and a new multi-tasking arrangement called Stacks, which automatically groups related open apps together.
Other features in WebOS 2.0 include the Adobe Flash Player 10.1 beta, an Exhibition mode that automatically runs specialised apps while the phone is charging in its dock, and HP Synergy, which combines information from Facebook, Google, Microsoft Exchange, LinkedIn and Yahoo accounts.
HP — which acquired Palm for $1.2bn (£760m) in July — described the update as the most significant since the platform's launch in January 2009, which saw WebOS debut inside the original Palm Pre.
"With WebOS 2.0, we're advancing the innovations we introduced 16 months ago [and] expanding the features," said Jon Rubinstein, senior vice president and general manager of HP's Palm global business unit. "We've made tremendous strides since the platform launched."
Similar to features in the Android OS, the new Just Type feature combines universal search with the ability to send text to email, SMS or status updates without launching an app.
Rounding off the list of developments, WebOS 2.0's browser now supports HTML 5 features such as geolocation. The operating system also has a redesigned Launcher, support for Bluetooth keyboards, expanded messaging features that add Yahoo IM and buddy management options, and the QuickOffice Connect Mobile Suite — a document viewer that offers support for Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents and provides integration with other services, including Google Docs and Dropbox.
HP says it has also redesigned the Palm App Catalog to make apps easier to find, and introduced a Software Manager to keep them up to date.
Developers can access many of the APIs for a number of the new features, such as Exhibition, Just Type and Synergy, allowing them to build their own apps that make use of these functions.
The Pre 2 will be the first Palm phone to include a 1GHz processor within the portrait Qwerty slider form factor. The device will also ship with a 5-megapixel camera and is slimmer than the original Pre.
The Pre 2 will launch first in France on the SFR network from Friday, followed "in the coming months" by the US and Canada. An update for existing customers is also said to be due within a similar time frame, though an exact date has not been announced by the company.
No UK launch details are available.
HP, traditionally implementers of Windows Mobile, picked up the mobile manufacturer Palm with the intention of using the platform in a wide variety of internet-enabled devices including tablets, printers and other mobile phones. HP senior vice president Eric Cador at the start of October reaffirmed that the company would be offering new WebOS-powered handsets in 2011.
"You will see us coming early next year with new phones," Cador said at the Canalys Channels Forum 2010 conference, describing the acquisition of Palm for its WebOS platform as an "extremely fundamental" factor in the decision.