HP exec hints at larger role for WebOS

A tablet is definitely on the horizon, but more is hinted for the company's Feb. 9 unveiling of its WebOS plans

A recent CNBC interview with a Hewlett-Packard executive is focusing attention on the company's expected WebOS device news, including a possible tablet, on Feb. 9 in San Francisco.

In the interview, conducted at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP's personal systems group, reiterated that HP will offer at least one WebOS tablet. But he hints that there may be an even bigger future for the mobile platform, not only in smartphones, where it originated, but also in "other potentially large-screen devices."

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ANALYSIS: Tablet battle to heat up, prices to fall in 2011

The recorded interview is being reposted online, fueling reports and commentary on mobile-oriented websites such as BoyGeniusReport.com

Bradley reiterates that WebOS, first revealed as the software platform for Palm's Palm Pre smartphone was the strategic reason why HP acquired Palm last summer, for $1.2 billion. Palm was widely rumored to be actively developing a WebOS-based tablet and Bradley, not long after the acquisition, confirmed that HP would offer such a product in early 2011. "We're totally focused on enabling the table market with WebOS," Bradley says. On Feb. 9, HP will make a "broad announcement" about the future of WebOS.

Bradley goes on to say that tablets are not currently cannibalizing the notebook PC market. "I think they're very much adjacent [or companion products], rather than cannibalizing," he says. He says there is currently no data to suggest that younger generations are choosing tablets instead of PCs. And he reiterates the conventional wisdom that tablets are devices mainly for "consuming" media, while PCs are mainly for creating media.

In December 2010, HP confirmed that it planned to boost WebOS with strong multimedia and entertainment applications, by the MediaSmart Server team into the Palm business unit. HP is retiring its media server product line, which runs Microsoft Windows Home Server and are used in homes to serve multimedia files and backup data.

The MediaSmart Server includes HP software for tasks such as remote and mobile media streaming, multimedia file collection and file conversion, and lets files be accessed by Windows or Mac computers.

HP announced WebOS 2.0 in October. The release added multimedia features such as support for Flash 10.1 and HTML5 for users to watch video on the Internet.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww. Email: john_cox@nww.com. Blog RSS feed: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed.

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This story, "HP exec hints at larger role for WebOS" was originally published by Network World.

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