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Palm still designing new phones, despite HP's doubts,

Bosses' priority is webOS

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Since the announcement that it would be acquired by Hewlett-Packard, Palm has scarcely figured in any discussions of the smartphone landscape.

HP wants the operating system, but is mainly focused on emerging device formats such as web-enabled printers and tablets, is the message from within the larger firm. But until the deal is finalized, expected in late July, Palm insiders say the company is not giving up on its key market and is developing new devices as well as an OS upgrade.

On a developer webinar last week, as reported by the Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital blog, Palm said it had future devices on its roadmap.

Josh Marinacci, a member of the company's developer relations team, said: "I'm not allowed to talk about future roadmaps, especially because we're in the process of being acquired by HP, so I can't say. But yes, we have a roadmap. We are working on future devices. And a new version of the OS. So I think, you're going to find the next year very exciting."

By contrast, HP's CEO Mark Hurd had told a recent investor conference that the firm had not spent $1.2bn on Palm in order to ramp up its own lackluster smartphone activities, but to gain the software platform and intellectual property of webOS. This could then give HP a differentiated developer platform and user experience, not just for mobile internet devices but to be embedded in any web-enabled product, including HP's powerhouse range, the printers.

HP's official statement, designed to clarify Hurd's comments, said webOS would go into "an array of interconnected devices, including tablets, printers and, of course, smartphones".

Lovers of Palm's hardware had hoped HP might use its manufacturing economies and global channels to put new life into the Pre smartphone, but the PC giant has made a limited impact with its own handset range, iPAQ, which remains confined mainly to the enterprise, and it has shown none of the determination to be a serious smartphone player of its rivals Dell, Acer and Lenovo. It now seems likely that HP will recognize its role as a bit player in conventional smartphones but will, instead, try to steal a march in emerging formats such as superphones, tablets and mini-netbooks.

Copyright © 2010, Wireless Watch

Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

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