HP lays out dual tablet plans at US event

Consumer devices will use WebOS, business ones will get Windows 7, exec says

Hewlett-Packard will use Windows 7 in a tablet for business use, while making a consumer-oriented unit based on WebOS.

This approach was confirmed by HP Personal Systems Group CTO Phil McKinney on Wednesday at the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit.

HP is taking a targeted approach to its upcoming tablets, which will go up against Apple's blockbuster iPad and other devices, including Cisco's recently announced Cius business tablet. Asked whether HP is also interested in Android devices, McKinney said HP is focusing exclusively on two operating systems, Windows 7 and WebOS. McKinney is vice president and chief technology officer of the Personal Systems Group.

Facts and speculation about HP's tablet plans have been trickling out in recent weeks. Online documents uncovered by IDG News Service last week indicated the company was preparing a Windows 7 business tablet called the HP Slate 500 and also seeking a trademark on the name PalmPad. HP had announced plans for a Windows 7 tablet called the HP Slate earlier this year before it acquired Palm in April for about US$1.2 billion.

Looking into the future, McKinney said at the Summit that shared internet connectivity through a hub device will play a big role in HP's mobile vision. The Palm Pre already offers this feature, in which the phone can link to the carrier's wireless wide-area network while linking to other devices nearby via wi-fi. The Palm phone is one of several cellular-to-wi-fi hubs on the market now, including Sprint's Overdrive and Evo 4G phone and the MiFi from Verizon.

Separating the wide-area radio from a mobile device will allow HP to update those devices more frequently, McKinney said. It eliminates from the development process two time-consuming steps: certifying the device with the carrier and developing the radio interface layer software that communicates between the device and the wide-area radio. That layer is the most complex software in a mobile device and changes every time the manufacturer adopts a new radio, he said. By contrast, the software that interfaces to wi-fi rarely changes significantly, he said.

Other types of local networks could also make the local connection in these hubs, McKinney said. For example, HP has experimented with UWB (ultrawideband), he said.

HP also wants to separate displays from mobile devices, taking advantage of future platforms such as foldable displays and large screens that sit in a room and wait to link up with mobile devices. Displays could be printed on mylar film and placed anywhere, he said.

"Everything will become a display," McKinney said.

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