Back in 2006 I spied something behind my apartment in San Francisco: A fantasy-style commercial being filmed to promote Hewlett-Packard’s iPaq phones–behemoths that were more PC than pocket–to young consumers. The gist was that a group of teenage boys were using a GPS game to find a beautiful teen princess. To my knowledge the commercial never aired, but I was impressed how HP–which had already snagged Shawn White to endorse its laptops–was thinking about targeting young people with its smart phones. At the time its handsets retailed for around $600, the Treo was the apple of geek enthusiast eyes, and the only smart phone-like handset with teen appeal was the Paris Hilton-promoted T-Mobile Sidekick.
So when HP announced last May that it was buying Palm, I think I was the only observer to get a little excited. HP pairing its decent, affordable hardware with the highly-acclaimed webOS? It could go incredibly right–or else horribly disappointing. We’ll soon find out, now that HP has announced the Palm Pre 2, with webOS 2.0 will be released Friday in France and later in the United States and Canada.
The handset brags features like true multitasking, Just Type (with which a user doesn’t have to go into email, SMS, the Internet browser, etc. to start writing a message or search), and a beta of the Adobe Flash 10.1 player. That last bit especially intrigues me, and early reviewers have been thrilled that the Flash player really works.
Instead of putting webOS 2.0 into its hardware, though, HP minimally tweaked the existing and lackluster Pre hardware with a higher-megapixel camera and glass screen. Perhaps an attempt to get rid of all those Pre shells, or a warehouseful of the plastic from which they were forged?
For now, the Pre 2 may serve as the defunct Palm Inc’s “I coulda been a contender” speech, showing off what I’m sure had long been in store for the webOS operating system and software. But people I know who got the first Pre adore its functionality and ease-of-use–and these aren’t technophiles, but regular consumers. Team that with the hardware it deserves–and with the feeling of youth and fun that HP had tried to achieve with that 2006 commercial shoot–and HP could successfully throw down in the ring of iPhones and Androids.