After buying Palm and its WebOS platform, HP will be making a tablet based on the operating system, but not a netbook, according to an HP executive in Taiwan.
Monty Wong, vice president of personal computing systems group at HP Taiwan, said a WebOS tablet would be ready by October, but didn’t provide any other details to DigiTimes. He said the company would have more to announce in July, after the Palm acquisition is finalized.
Shortly after the companies announced the acquisition, TechCrunch reported a rumor that HP had killed its Windows-based slate, perhaps in favor of a WebOS version. With early reports less than enthused for the Windows slate, that seemed like the right call, but HP has remained quiet. It’s possible that the combination of Windows’ long start-up times and Intel’s Atom chip were not enough to compete with Apple’s iPad. An ARM-based WebOS tablet would fix those issues by acting more like a smartphone.
As for netbooks, Wong said they’re too similar in functionality to laptops, so it doesn’t make sense to push WebOS there. I think that’s the right call. WebOS is a touch-based operating system, and while there are touch screen netbooks and laptops available, including one from HP, these traditional fold-up tablets never had a huge market presence. And to make a WebOS netbook operated by mouse and keyboard just seems silly when you’ve got Windows, which is optimized for that kind of input.
Having said that, I’d love to see HP take a page from Lenovo and release some kind of modular Windows PC with a detachable tablet, running WebOS when separated from the body. Lenovo’s IdeaPad U1, still in production, was one of the coolest things I saw at CES in January, but it was held back by a sluggish and unremarkable custom OS. A more polished platform like WebOS, complete with apps, could do the trick.