Palm's WebOS 2.0 beta is now available in limited release to developers, with a full public release planned for later this year.
Palm announced the Software Developer Kit today on its Web site describing several improvements, including a focus on "Stacks" for better multitasking and a "Quick Actions" way of searching or creating an e-mail without launching an app.
Hewlett-Packard completed its purchase of Palm on July 1. HP officials have said they will release a WebOS tablet computer in early 2011 , but the OS version has not been specified. Another HP tablet based on Windows 7 for enterprise users is expected this fall. And HP is reportedly working on an Android -based tablet, although some bloggers have said that device has been shelved -- something HP hasn't confirmed.
Palm launched Palm Pre and Palm Pixi smartphones based on the first WebOS version, and HP said it will continue using WebOS in smartphones, as well as in tablets and netbooks .
The WebOS 2.0 Stacks feature takes the card metaphor seen in the Palm Pre to another level by grouping related cards into stacks, Palm said. The change is designed to reduce clutter and make it easy to move quickly between tasks. A user can drag and drop cards or the OS can automatically stack them.
The Quick Actions feature is part of what Palm calls "Just Type," a new name for universal search. With Quick Actions, a user can launch an e-mail, update a social network status or do a Web search without needing to launch an app.
Developers using Just Type will be able to give users real-time suggestions as they use an application, as long as the data for the app is stored on the user's device.
Other changes include "Exhibition," which allows developers to build ways for users to see apps when a Palm phone is placed on the Touchstone Charging Dock. Exhibition can be added to support an existing app, so the day's agenda or a slideshow can be shown on a phone on the Touchstone.
HTML5 enhancements are part of the new version, too.
Palm noted that the features are "slated" for the WebOS 2.0 but might not actually appear in the first public release.