HP webOS 2.0 plus Palm Pre 2 Formally Announced

Palm and webOS are officially back from the dead as of today. HP has formally announced both HP webOS 2.0 and the Palm Pre 2 smartphone. The Palm Pre 2 will be a Verizon CDMA phone.

There are a few interesting things. It looks like you can use it as a mobile hotspot if you have the right data plan from Verizon, which would be great if you bring a laptop along and don’t have an independent Wifi source – you can use the Pre 2’s CDMA connection and wirelessly tether up to five devices and connect to the internet through Verizon. One of the most interesting things is that you can have conversations that span multiple protocols and software – you can have a conversation with a person that starts in AOL’s AIM instant messenger, continue it in GoogleTalk, and finish it with normal text messaging. It looks like it can backup your data wirelessly every day. The web browser has Adobe Flash Player 10.1 beta support, but to be honest, in all the years I’ve had a smartphone, Flash has never been a deal breaker to me. I’ve never needed it on my iPhone, nor did I need it on my Windows Mobile phones before that. The sites I’ve come across that didn’t have an HTML alternative to their Flash support were not worth bothering with.

What does it offer genealogists?
There’s no indication of any genealogy software coming to webOS 2.0 just yet. It’s not backwards compatible with the older Palm OS genealogy software. If you just need something to check email and maybe browse the web and stay up on a few social networks (Facebook, etc.), it probably do just fine for you. It even has a hardware keyboard which some people like. One nice thing is that hardware keyboards don’t take up space on the screen. If you are looking for dedicated genealogy apps, you’re probably going to have to wait a while. It took a while before they started to appear on Google’s Android, and we are just now seeing discussion of genealogy apps on Windows Phone 7. My guess would be that developers are going to wait and see some hard numbers on the sales side of things. It looks like it has a decent camera which is a requirement for genealogists these days, and it’s got Skype Mobile. If Evernote comes out with a webOS 2.0 app, that would make it really interesting for some. It does support Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents which is very important for a lot of us.

Palm Pre 2 Specifications
* 3.1-inch multi-touch display
* 320×480 resolution
* Hardware QWERTY keyboard (slide)
* Built-in GPS
* 5 megapixel camera, LED flash
* 802.11 b/g
* Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
* 16GB Storage
* USB 2.0 (microUSB) support for charging/access

Software support
* Multitasking
* Support for Microsoft Exchange
* POP 3/IMAP email (Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, etc.)
* Some kind of integration between GoogleTalk, AIM, and text-messaging.

HP Palm is going to be fighting Microsoft for third place for the time being. It’s a weird situation to think that not too long ago Palm and Microsoft dominated the smartphone category, at least in the US, and now they’ll be fighting for third place behind two platforms that didn’t even exist a short time ago. I think there is probably room for HP Palm and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 in addition to Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. The smartphone market as whole is growing now that prices have dropped, apps are easier to find and install, and consumers are aware of them. All HP has to do is to have good pricing and good app support and delivery.

Somebody pointed out Nokia/Symbian and Blackberry. They are legitimate smartphones, however it’s been a while since any genealogy apps were on anything Symbian related and BB has never had any as far as I know. I don’t consider them a part of this group because of those two reasons. There’s also a question of mindshare – BB is definitely not a typical consumer-related smartphone and these days in the US, it’s down to iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, and now webOS. That may change though – Blackberry has certainly generated a lot of interest.

* Official HP webOS 2.0 press release
* Palm Pre 2 – product page
* Why webOS 2.0 goes to 11 (Official Palm Blog post)