HP recently acquired ailing Palm, spurring a whole slew of speculation regarding the fate of the HP Slate tablet computer, and the new direction for webOS. Yesterday during a Q2 conference call, HP’s CEO Mark Hurd confirmed that they “expect to leverage WebOS into a variety of form factors, including slates and Web-connected printers”. So far, Android has been the only mobile OS showing the same degree of expandability, and their head start both in terms of hardware and app market will make it an uphill battle for HP and Palm. Even though they’re just launching now on AT&T through some difficulties, the Palm Pre and Pixi have been openly admitted as a failure by Sprint, but one can only hope that diversifying into new devices will breathe new life and confidence into webOS. Personally, I think that a tablet is a well-suited form factor for webOS; the gestures seem like they would translate nicely, and the thumbnail-vioew multitasking seems like it was built for a larger screen from the get-go.
The web-connected printer is a realm Android has yet to really dabble in, and HP’s massive amount of experience there will ensure that whatever happens, webOS will still have a home in the tech world, if a nichey one. Believe it or not, there are apps for HP printers, which alone could necessitate a smartphone-grade operating system. How much interoperability will exist between existing webOS apps and those on an HP printer or slate is still somewhat up in the air, but we’ll likely find out soon enough. HP is unlikely to neglect Palm’s long-term investment in cellular, and will hopefully inject webOS with enough fightin’ juice to keep the phones coming, but they’ll probably end up fighting for fourth place market share with Windows Phone 7.