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Will WebOS 2.0 Get Palm Back on Track?

Palm’s WebOS has been a critical success and a commercial failure. But now, bought by HP and with a new version 2.0 heading to developers, can Palm get that second chance?

Palm’s WebOS, the OS seen on the Palm Pre and Palm Pixi, is rarely even mentioned in the same breath as the major smartphone players anymore. Stories about smartphones mention iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile/Phone 7–and that’s it. No mention of WebOS. That’s all too bad, since any tech geek will tell you that WebOS is a great mobile OS. HP, which bought Palm earlier this year, is hoping to convince the general public of that, and the new WebOS 2.0, the first major update to WebOS, is a major step in that direction.

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These new features are purely for developers. That means that we’re left to extrapolate what can be done with these tools, but it also means that the list is by no means an official overview of WebOS 2.0. These are just some of the new tools developers will have at their disposal for WebOS 2.0.

WebOS has probably the best multitasking of any modern smartphone OS, and Palm is trying to expand that with Stacks. In WebOS, open apps are viewed as “cards,” which can be flipped through, opened, or closed. In WebOS 2.0, you can group these cards together, or allow WebOS to do it automatically. Gizmodo gives the example of opening a link within an email–WebOS will put the newly opened link and your email in one Stack, for quick organization.

Palm is also expanding its search capabilities, opening up its universal search to developers. That means you could theoretically just start typing the name of a movie, and get IMDb results, Hulu results, and Netflix results, allowing you to bypass browsing within apps. That’s great for cloud-based music services like Spotify as well.

Other features include HTML5 compatibility, display triggers (like on Android, when you plug a phone into a dock and it immediately goes into alarm clock mode), and deeper Javascript services.

Neither Palm nor HP has announced anything regarding new WebOS devices (though the rumor mill suggests odd pairings like WebOS-powered HP printers), but this developer release is a strong indication that we’ll be seeing new WebOS 2.0 devices sometime soon. These new features are nice, put not revolutionary–I hope the full WebOS 2.0 announcement includes some knockouts. Hopefully the loss of many of WebOS’s lead designers hasn’t hurt the rebirth too bady.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in Brooklyn (no link for that one–you’ll have to do the legwork yourself).

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About the author

Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Popular Science, The Awl, Gizmodo, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. He holds an undergraduate degree from McGill University and currently lives in Brooklyn, because he has a beard and glasses and that's the law.

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