HP promises WebOS-based handsets in 2011

A senior executive has confirmed that the company will be introducing a range of smartphones in 2011 running on the WebOS platform that HP bought along with Palm
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

HP will be releasing new WebOS-based devices next year, according to comments made by a senior executive on Wednesday.

HP senior vice president Eric Cador confirmed the new line-up but did not give any specific handset details during an industry event in Barcelona, as reported by Reuters.

"You will see us coming early next year with new phones," Cador said at the Canalys Channels Forum 2010 conference, before describing the acquisition of Palm for its WebOS platform as an "extremely fundamental" factor in the decision.

HP's purchase of Palm closed on 1 July at a total cost of $1.2bn (£753m), giving HP the rights to the WebOS platform. At the time, HP's then-chief Mark Hurd said WebOS would be used to enhance HP's intellectual property "in the connected-mobility space".

"We expect to leverage WebOS into a variety of form factors, including slates and web-connected printers," Hurd said.

However, Gartner analyst Nick Jones told ZDNet UK in an email exchange on Thursday that HP will not have an easy road ahead in the mobile market, even with WebOS powering its smartphones. "WebOS is a nice handset platform, especially in terms of the user experience, but its market share has slipped to virtual invisibility," he said. "Under one percent of smartphones shipped globally in Q2 2010 were WebOS devices."

Jones also said that 2011 will be a very competitive year for all handset manufacturers, making the challenge all the harder for HP. "HP will be competing with new OSes (operating systems) or new releases of current OSes, for example, Windows Phone 7 is about to launch, Android, iPhone, Nokia's new Symbian and Nokia MeeGo will emerge next year as well. So the competition will be extremely fierce and it will be very difficult to stand out from the crowd," he said.

"As [WebOS] shipment numbers are so small, it's not such an attractive platform for developers... HP will have to do a lot of work to jump-start the ecosystem and convince developers to spend their time working on WebOS when pretty much every alternative platform — except maybe Meego — will have a larger user base and more profit potential," Jones added.

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