updated 02:55 pm EDT, Tue August 31, 2010
Palm provides webOS 2.0 beta features, SDK
HP's Palm team today provided its first official glimpse at webOS 2.0, the next major revision of its OS. The core interface change revolves around Stacks; borrowing a small cue from Mac OS X Leopard's similarly named feature, it groups app 'cards' based on tasks to simplify switching. Apps that have been opened for related functions will now stay together; a browser used to open a link in e-mail will appear as part of the same Stack as the mail client, for example.
The OS will also open significantly more features to developers. The instant search, now nicknamed Just Type, is not only open to developers for both offline and online search but will support automated actions from an app. A single command in the search box could perform multiple tasks at once through a given app. Palm's Plugin Development Kit (PDK) is now built-in and will let developers not only make truly hardware-level apps but now merge regular webOS features with those apps. Synergy now has its own hooks and can let individual apps create their own calendars, contacts and instant messaging services beyond what's already built-in.
Similar to the Motorola Droid, the Touchstone wireless cradle will have its own functionality and can switch a webOS device to a different task when docked. Many of the functions would be light, but could include clocks, a photo viewer or weather. HTML5 support has been deepened and will allow for local storage for offline web apps, geolocation and better visuals.
A beta kit to start work on webOS 2.0 apps should be available from today for those in the early access program. Wider releases are coming; the finished version is believed due for the end of the year, but whether this will reach existing devices or come alongside new ones isn't clear.
The OS is a critical one for the Palm division, which for the first time will have to unveil a major platform update while under HP's ownership. WebOS has enjoyed some advantages over rival platforms such as full multitasking and deep integration of the web. but Palm's financial troubles until it was bought out had kept it from frequent upgrades to phones and from reaching the scale needed to have an impact versus Android and the iPhone, which have much further reach.
WebOS 2.0 is likely to be the headlining feature of two key Palm devices in the near future, including the 960x640-capable Roadrunner HD and an early 2011 tablet.