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Yesterday, HP announced its first three products using WebOS, the operating system for mobile devices that was its main prize for acquiring Palm in July of last year. HP is already known for printers, PCs, and laptops, but the new products—a tablet, an updated smart phone, and a new super-small smart phone—highlighted a new strategy for the company.

The Touchpad tablet, Pre 3 smart phone, and Veer mini smart phone, show WebOS in three different sizes. By announcing them together, HP hopes to emphasize both the flexibility of the operating system and how well WebOS can work for a user who owns multiple devices running it. It also hopes to spur developers to create apps for the platform. However, this may still not be enough to capture a market that’s dominated by other big companies such as Apple and Google.

Palm’s WebOS operating system was the ailing company’s last-ditch effort to reclaim the market it once dominated with its popular PDA. The WebOS operating system uses Web technologies familiar to developers, such as HTML and JavaScript, instead of Objective C, the specialized language used to program apps for Apple’s iPhone. The Palm Pre, which was the first device to feature the operating system, was praised for its design when released in June 2009, but it was a flop in the market, leading to HP’s acquisition of Palm.

The acquisition of Palm, and the launch of these three devices, is an important move for HP, the world’s largest personal-computer maker. The market is shifting away from desktop and laptop computers toward increasingly powerful smart phones and tablet computers. But the strategy HP has chosen is risky. It aims to innovate its way to a successful position in this emerging market, which is dominated by Apple with the iPhone and iPad, and by other hardware companies that use Google’s free Android OS.

Now HP hopes to use WebOS to give it a leg up in the current war for mobile-device users. The Touchpad is a tablet designed to compete with Apple’s iPad and its imitators. The Pre 3 is an updated entry into the smart-phone market. And the Veer is something of a novelty: a smart phone about the size of a credit card, although considerably thicker.

“For the first time, WebOS is on a device [the Touchpad] that lets its intuitive nature shine through,” said Jon Rubinstein, a senior vice president and general manager at HP. Rubinstein is a former Apple executive who served as executive chairman of the board at Palm.

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Credit: HP

Tagged: Web, mobile, apps, tablets, smart phones, operating systems

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