Wednesday, February 9, 2011

HP Unveils ‘Veer’ Smartphone, TouchPad Tablet; Pre Reborn

HP unveiled a smaller phone, based on the WebOS software from Palm, called the “Veer”

As anticipated, executives of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), discussing what they consider the $160 billion annual market for “connected devices” today unveiled at an event in San Francisco two such gizmos, a tablet computer called the TouchPad, and a phone, called the “Veer,” both based on the “WebOS” operating system that HP acquired when it bought smartphone marker Palm last year.

HP did not announce pricing for the new devices, and they will not be available for at least a couple of months, with no specific date(s) offered.

At the event, Palm’s former CEO, Jon Rubinstein, now an HP exec, walked through the features of the TouchPad. Weighing in slightly heavier than Apple’s (AAPL) iPad at 1.6 lbs, and with the same 9.7-inch screen dimensions, features at 1.3 megapixel camera, video calling, the “Beats” audio technology that HP developed with Dr. Dre, Wifi 802.11n, 16 or 32 gigabytes of storage, a dual-core 1.2 gigahertz processor (probably from Qualcomm (QCOM), though not specified), runs Adobe’s (ADBE) Flash, and offers book and magazine reading, via a partnership with Amazon.com (AMZN) for its Kindle e-reader program.

Jimmy Iovine, who founded the Beats venture with Dre, actually appeared on stage later in the event.

The Veer, said Rubinstein, using the HSPA+ cellular network standard, features a Qualcomm “Snapdragon” processor running at 800 MHz, a 3.6-inch WVGA display, a 5 megapixel camera, with flash, a forward-facing camera for video calls, and what the company billed as the “largest QWERTY keyboard,” which slides out of the body of the device, similar to Palm’s previous “Pre” smartphones. The phone is smaller than the Pres were, roughly the width and height of a credit card, when its keyboard and screen are slide into the closed position. Rubinstein showed off a picture with the Veer placed next to an Amex card to make the point.

The TouchPad tablet looks quite a bit like Apple’s iPad in some respects. HP talked up the ability to share info with the Veer merely by placing one device on top of the other.

Speaking of which, the company also announced an update of the Pre, the Pre3, which runs on both the HSPA+ network standard and the CDMA standard used by Verizon Communications (VZ), making it a “world phone,” the company said. The Pre3 will use one of Qualcomm’s “Snapdragon” 8×55 series of chips, running at 1.4 gigahertz, the company said.

Rubinstein said the Palm “Touchstone” technology would allow the phones and the tablet to easily share information, such as picking up Web browsing on one device where you left off on another, by placing the phone on top of the tablet. (Touchstone was the name for charging stations that Palm offered with the original Pre, which were able to juice the phone’s battery just by sitting the device on the charger.)

HP said it intended to bring WebOS software to other devices, including printers and personal computers, later this year.

The TouchPad and Pre3 are expected to be available “this summer,” said HP, while Veer is expected “this spring.”

Qualcomm’s CEO Paul Jacobs took the stage at the event to say a few words.

Time, Inc.’s “chief digital officer” Randall Rothenberg came onstage to talk about how much the publisher “loves WebOs,” and to show off some magazine titles, including Time, running on the TouchPad.

Here’s HP’s official TouchPad page; here’s the Veer description; and here’s HP’s page for the Pre3.

During the event, Rubinstein announced some content deals, and brought up Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffery Katzenberg to put in a good word about the TouchPad.

Eric Savitz over at Forbes.com has a live blog of the event, which is still underway.

HP shares this afternoon are up 34 cents, or 0.7%, at $48.48. Qualcomm shares are down 8 cents at $56.02.

How are the other smartphone and tablet folks doing? Well, their shares appear largely unaffected, so far:

Apple shares are up $2.70, or 0.8%, at $357.90;
Nokia (NOK) shares are up 28 cents, or 2.5%, at $11.56;
Motorola Mobility (MMI) shares are up 19 cents, or 0.7%, at $30.35;
And Research in Motion (RIMM) shares are up 8 cents at $63.68.

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