Hewlett Packard is seeking to trademark the name "PalmPad" for computer hardware and mobile devices.
The move is a solid indication that a tablet computer based on HP's purchase of Palm and its WebOS is under development. HP could be preparing a tablet designed primarily to compete with the Apple iPad, putting it on sale possibly by year's end, industry analysts and bloggers said. HP didn't comment.
However, a recent trademark application by HP to the US Patent and Trademark Office speaks for itself, according to industry experts. Trademark applications are usually tantamount to receiving a trademark, unless the same trademark is found to be in use by another party, noted Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.
Gold said HP is expected to build a WebOS tablet, using the OS in the Palm Pre and Pixi smartphones, and the trademark filing gives more credence to that idea. "It's not far-fetched to think that a variant of WebOS is ready for a tablet," he said.
Palm was rumoured to have been developing a tablet device before HP announced plans to purchase ailing Palm for $1.2 billion on 28 April , Gold said.
When HP finalised its purchase of Palm on July 1, it confirmed plans to produce a WebOS tablet, as well as smartphones and netbooks, but no timetable was announced.
HP had shown a tablet called the Slate at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, but it ran on Windows 7.
Some blogs had reported that Windows 7 was dropped by HP from its plans for a tablet, but HP has not publicly stated whether Windows has been dropped entirely.
The significance of the trademark filing is that the WebOS is likely to move forward in an HP tablet sooner rather than later. The tablet is is expected to compete directly with the iPad and will include touchscreen capabilities and other features, Gold and others said.
There is a chance that HP is merging Palm's WebOS with technology that HP already demonstrated in the Slate, Gold said.
A big distinction is that the Slate prototype had run on Windows with an Atom processor, while the Palm smartphones using WebOS used ARM-based processors, Gold said. Moving to WebOS could mean that HP has decided to move to ARM in the tablet, requiring HP to either rationalize the two designs or just stick with ARM.
If HP is rationalising the designs, that could take time, Gold said. "Can HP put out a device quickly that will [have] high enough performance [in the processor] to compete with iPad? That's the $64,000 question."
Given the need to move to market fast to compete with iPad's fantastic success, Gold said it's his guess that HP will put a PalmPad on sale within one to two quarters, and before year's end.