updated 10:15 am EDT, Tue October 19, 2010
Palm Pre 2 and webOS 2.0 launched
HP fired back in the smartphone arena by launching the Palm Pre 2. The design is the first to run webOS 2.0 and supports Just Type's ability to perform commands even before launching an app, Stacks to group together apps by their associated tasks, enhanced Synergy support and Exhibition apps that work only when the phone is on a Touchstone dock. The release is also the first to support a beta of Flash 10.1.
Other touches include a reworked launcher that allows adding and customizing launcher pages, favorites that appear across the entire OS, and VPN support. Quickoffice comes out of the box to get working on Office documents.
As hardware, the phone is a leap in performance with a 1GHz processor (instead of 500MHz) and a new five-megapixel camera with LED flash and better depth of field. The design now has a flat, more durable front that also provides a simple glass surface. Its 3.1-inch 480x320 display is the same, as are the 802.11g Wi-Fi, GPS and 16GB of internal storage. HP anticipates about 5.5 hours of 3G talk time.
Unlike past hardware launches, HP plans to be very quick and will ship the Pre 2 to France's SFR for Friday. Verizon is so far the only American carrier and will get it in the "coming months," while unnamed Canadian carriers will also get the QWERTY slider. Bell is the most likely candidate as the only supporter of the original Pre. US buyers will have the option of an unlocked, UMTS/HSPA version of the Pre 2 for development.
All existing Palm phone owners should get webOS 2.0 as a free update, but the timing is to be announced later.
The release may be critical to HP, whose Palm label has been fighting to keep share in the light of much more powerful competition from Apple, Google and RIM. HP has vowed that its economies of scale will let it release devices and promote them much more capably than the independent but financially struggling Palm could manage by itself.