HP's McKinney lays out dual tablet plans

The Personal Systems Group executive confirmed an enterprise device on Windows 7 and a consumer unit with WebOS

Hewlett-Packard will use Windows 7 in a tablet exclusively for enterprises, while making a consumer-oriented unit based on WebOS, Personal Systems Group executive Phil McKinney confirmed Wednesday at the annual AlwaysOn Stanford Summit.

The sprawling technology vendor is taking a targeted approach to its upcoming tablets, which will go up against Apple's blockbuster iPad and other devices, including Cisco's recently announced Cius business tablet. Asked whether HP is also interested in Android devices, McKinney said HP is focusing exclusively on two operating systems, Windows 7 and WebOS. McKinney is vice president and chief technology officer of the Personal Systems Group.

Facts and speculation about HP's tablet plans have been trickling out in recent weeks. Online documents uncovered by IDG News Service last week indicated the company was preparing a Windows 7 business tablet called the HP Slate 500 and also seeking a trademark on the name PalmPad. HP had announced plans for a Windows 7 tablet called the HP Slate earlier this year before it acquired Palm in April for about US$1.2 billion.

Looking into the future, McKinney said Wednesday that shared Internet connectivity through a hub device will play a big role in HP's mobile vision. The Palm Pre already offers this feature, in which the phone can link to the carrier's wireless wide-area network while linking to other devices nearby via Wi-Fi. The Palm phone is one of several cellular-to-Wi-Fi hubs on the market now, including Sprint's Overdrive and Evo 4G phone and the MiFi from Verizon.

Separating the wide-area radio from a mobile device will allow HP to update those devices more frequently, McKinney said. It eliminates from the development process two time-consuming steps: certifying the device with the carrier and developing the radio interface layer software that communicates between the device and the wide-area radio. That layer is the most complex software in a mobile device and changes every time the manufacturer adopts a new radio, he said. By contrast, the software that interfaces to Wi-Fi rarely changes significantly, he said.

Other types of local networks could also make the local connection in these hubs, McKinney said. For example, HP has experimented with UWB (ultrawideband), he said.

HP still isn't planning to actually make a hub device in the form of a watch, which the company showed off as a concept five years ago, McKinney said. However, another manufacturer saw the idea and has built a prototype, which should come to market soon, he said.

HP also wants to separate displays from mobile devices, taking advantage of future platforms such as foldable displays and large screens that sit in a room and wait to link up with mobile devices. Displays could be printed on mylar film and placed anywhere, he said.

"Everything will become a display," McKinney said.

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Tags consumer electronicshardware systemslaptopstablet PCsHewlett-PackardPhil McKinney

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