In what could be the first clear change of direction since Palm was acquired by HP, word has leaked about an upcoming smartphone that will be running WebOS but be without the physical keyboard of previous Palm WebOS designs.
Instead the new phone, codenamed Mansion, will sport a touchscreen with 800×480 resolution causing it to somewhat resemble the current gaggle of Android superphones such as the Droid X and Samsung Galaxy S, as well as ‘tweener devices such as the Dell Streak. My take on the move is that HP is looking to create a small-form tablet with phone capabilities similar to the Streak while also jettisoning the Palm Pre/Pixi design style. The easiest way to do that would indeed be to go for the all-screen “iPhoneish” look that Palm’s original designs were deliberately avoiding.
The leak comes on the heels of HP's announcement that it was dropping all development plans that involved Android or Windows Phone 7 and would be focusing completely on WebOS in the mobile market. While this is certainly sensible (always smart for a company to eat its own dog food), it also puts a great deal of pressure on the critically acclaimed but underperforming WebOS and its upcoming second version to save the day for HP’s mobile aspirations.
Can it? Well, in addition to the Mansion, HP/Palm intends to release a WebOS-based tablet in the first quarter of 2011 but we have seen no specs or details about it as of yet. Certainly HP has the ability to shake up the mobile market like few other vendors, as well as a long and storied history with mobile devices even without the addition of Palm. Since the end of the glory days iPaq series, HP's mobile efforts have been somewhat half-hearted. I am really looking forward to seeing what they can do with WebOS when they really try to make a noise in the market.[PreCentral]