Round Table: Think beyond.
Welcome to Round Table, which is in fact not a table at all. Round Table is a continuing series on PreCentral where we pose a question to the staff and they provide their thoughts and insights. The question could be something simple like “how many Touchstones do you own, and where are they?” or something a bit more complicated, like “what’s to blame for the brain drain at Palm?” Or maybe we’ll just end up chatting about how much better the original Star Wars trilogy was than the prequels. Today, however, we’re wrapping up our three-part Round Table series: Think Big. Think Small. Think Beyond.
Adam: “Think beyond” is the wildcard here. From a physical device perspective, I think they are going to announce additional devices or form factors for the future--from things people expect like printers to things that none of us have thought of yet--and lay out a roadmap of where they see webOS going in the future. I hope they have some amazing ideas like Jonathan’s profile-independent device vision or Dieter’s concept of being able to load up an instance of your webOS device right in a PC’s web browser, but I really have no clue what they will come to the table with. I just hope that in the end, they can show how an innovative company like Palm (“small”) and a technology giant like HP (“big”) can come together and bring something to the market that is truly revolutionary (“beyond”) to put webOS back on the map. We will all just have to be patient just a little while longer!
Derek: Think beyond is a bit of a puzzler, but if I had to guess (which is totally in the spirit of Round Table), I’d say this is in reference to the next major version of webOS, and I’m going to call it version 2.5. webOS 2.5 is going to bring the massive interconnectivity that HP needs to build their webOS product ecosystem. The updated OS will also run awesome Enyo apps, scale with ease between multiple screen sizes, and hopefully bring much-needed updates to many of the built-in webOS apps. I do not expect to see 2.5 running on anything other than tablets or smartphones at this point - HP is going to need more than six months of work to bring webOS to devices like printers, PCs, and toasters. But don’t think that doesn’t mean they won’t talk about it. All this said, I see this interconnectivity taking a page out of the Foleo and not the Playbook: the tablet and smartphone and toaster will be able to operate entirely independently (you’re not going to need to hook up the tablet to your smartphone just to handle email). I hope that this means they’ve figured out how to implement sharing a Palm Profile on multiple devices. I also expect to see Phil McKinney and his magical flexible display.
Dieter: While we got a brief taste of what’s coming in webOS with the Enyo preview, HP needs to blow it out with webOS and right soon. webOS 2.0 was an incremental upgrade at best - every single native webOS app is feeling long in the tooth and a few are criminally out-of-date and out-of-touch with current trends. I’m looking at you, Maps and Email. While I think that “Think Beyond” is probably just a reference to HP teasing ever more devices running webOS - from Printers to Netbooks - what I *hope* is that it will be a meaty helping of information on the future of webOS.
Jonathan: My major expectation for February 9th is for “think beyond”: HP will launch (or at least announce) of a revolutionary new multi-device strategy for HP, centered on a broad cloud service accessed via webOS, where a user’s profile, apps and files are automatically synced across all webOS devices she owns (smartphones, PDAs, tablets) or logs into (printers, desktop clients). Intelligent algorithms will manage syncing to ensure maximum power efficiency and prioritize critical files, and HP will strike deals with carriers to exclude syncing from data use limits.
Mark: Think beyond must surely be referring to HP’s long-term vision for a unified webOS experience across multiple devices. The February 9th event is likely to roll out plans for a fully realized cloud-based computing experience. That is to say, the same data, content, access and UI experience regardless of your location or your device. I also think this is where HP and Palm have the greatest room to surprise us. I expect that Palm and HP will introduce cloud-based features that until now they have only hinted at and we have yet to think of.
Nathan: Think beyond is probably the most metaphorical of the three teasers, and probably does not specifically refer to anything in particular. Palm and HP want us to forget the dismal past and see the future as a limitless dreamland of possibilities. They have big, big plans for webOS and there is no limit to what they will do with it and how big it will grow. There are probably ideas that have been kicked around HP board rooms that we could never even dream of. Maybe a desktop OS version of webOS to take on Google’s upcoming Chrome OS and truly bring to reality the prophecy of the cloud-based OS? Maybe webOS powered cash registers for retail outlets? It is anyone’s guess and they want us to keep guessing and look at HP/Palm the way many people look at Apple and Google: like they never know what those tech giants will come up with next but they cannot wait to get their hands on it.
Rizwan: With HP taking a huge gamble by completely pulling out of the Windows 7 slate development and essentially disappearing from CES, I can only imagine that they’re coming to this prepared. Bearing that in mind, I only have wildly ambitious hopes for what this means: To me, “Beyond” means a cohesive ecosystem. The kind that can only come when you’re a massive hardware company with it’s own polished OS. I think “Beyond” is going to be a range of products and peripherals: a roadmap for webOS in 2011. A tablet, sure. But I also see this as being Atrix-like touchstone connections: desktop workstations with monitors and keyboards. Printers. Cloud-linked services for streaming your content from your PC to your webOS device. Heck, I even see a webOS notification watch that pairs over bluetooth, synchronized to your handset.
In the end, it has to be a range of products to get back in the game, and with a broad, cohesive ecosystem, you expose the problem with the current state of Android: Fragmentation, with hardware manufacturers having no idea where Android is going next (buttonless it seems) and consumers having no security that their fancy new tablet is future-proof for more than a few months (I’m looking at you, Samsung).
So, that wraps up this Round Table series: Think big. Think small. Think beyond. Comments are below - you know what to do.