Wednesday, February 09, 2011

HP Slams It Out Of The Park

For my current gig at Vodafone, at one point I had 5 or so smartphones on my desk: an iPhone, an HTC running Android, a Nokia N8 with Symbian, a Vodafone H1 (for reals), and a Palm Pre with WebOS. Of all devices I tested, the most beautiful experience software-wise was the Palm with WebOS. Every pixel was crafted to create this really smooth and lush experience. The standard system felt as visually polished and smooth as the best-in-class iPad apps. Pity the hardware felt so cheap.

I was researching synchronization and back-up from a mobile experience perspective, especially contacts, and what I saw was that synchronizing and importing contacts and calendar entries from the cloud to the device, maybe even including contacts from social networks, seemed really difficult. All systems would double contacts, poison them with categorized or outdated information during the round-trip to the web, and sometimes completely get lost when including contacts from social networks like Facebook or Twitter, and leaving the user in the dark what came from where, and how to fix an issue.

Except for one address book. The Synergy system on the PalmPre. It used very simple cues to show you a contact came from multiple locations, and made it simple to undo a merger or delete broken information. It understood not every Twitter contact was as important as the entries in your original phonebook with full information. It was beautiful to look at and use. But Palm couldn't make the phone a hit, running it on a slow processor, doing terrible advertising for it, and not being able to get it cheaply enough in carrier's hands to sell at a good price point.

Palm got bought by HP, and HP saw a lot of potential. First results of the collaboration are being shown off today, and they are delicious. A mini smartphone with a keyboard that gives you all this beauty with portability. An updated Palm Pre with serious horsepower and global cell technologies. And a beautiful tablet that actually integrates with your phone creating a connected ecology: if you get a text message on your phone while working on your pad, you can read and answer it right on the big screen. When you pull up a web page on the big screen, you can transfer it for viewing on your small phone by just tapping the phone to the pad. First they got synchronization right, now they get connection right too.

Qualcomm is providing the chipset and promising long battery life, and the system is handling gaming and complex websites just fine. HP is launching with music and magazine content providers, including an Amazon Kindle client ready to go to buy and read books from their store.

I want one now.