By Rob Garretson
HP officially used the run-up to this week's Mobile World Congress in Spain to take the wraps off its new netbook incorporating Google's Android mobile operating system, the Compaq AirLife 100, previewing a device that blends the wireless connectivity of a smartphone with the capabilities of a 10-inch touch-screen netbook.
The AirLife 100 will be available initially in Spain, in partnership with Telefónica, as well as "selected countries" in the spring. It sports a built-in webcam, 16GB SD slot, 3G and WiFi connectivity, a 10.1-inch touch-screen display and reportedly up to 12 hours of battery life (up to 10 days of standby time). The inclusion of the memory-card slot and webcam prompted some observers to call it the iPad Apple should have released.
HP also introduced in Europe the latest smartphone in its Windows-powered IPAQ line, the Glisten, keeping a foot in the Windows Mobile camp as it tests the Android waters. The introductions come just after web measurement firm Comscore released its quarterly data showing the Google mobile operating system doubling its market share, while Apple's iPhone continues to widen its recently gained lead on Microsoft as the second most widely used smartphone platform, behind RIM's Blackberry.
"The browser has become the desktop for many people, and the new Compaq AirLife is the next evolution of a mobile computer that is streamlined specifically for the Web," said Charl Snyman, VP and general manager of HP's personal systems group in Europe, Middle East and Africa, in a statement. "This new type of user lives life online and no longer measures computing speeds and feeds, but rather friends, people and online social ranks."
The device offers "instant on" capability like a cell phone and features global positioning system (GPS) capabilities and NDrive navigation software, including regional maps with points of interest, preinstalled. Initially the AirLife 100 will be available only in conjunction with Telefónica in its mobile broadband services markets across Europe and Latin America, yet HP has registered the device with the FCC in the U.S. and gained the necessary FCC certification to market it domestically, possibly as part of the HP Mini line.
The HP iPAQ Glisten, available from AT&T in the US along with Telefónica in Europe and Latin America, incorporates Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system and offers a touch-friendly user interface with an improved browser with Flash support. Like other smartphones, it offers built-in Wi-Fi(5) and GPS functionality and a full QWERTY keyboard, in addition to its touch-enabled screen, HP's first sporting AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) technology.
The HP introductions of new Android and Windows Mobile devices follow the release of Comscore data that shows the Google platform and Apple gaining ground -- albeit slightly -- on the leading smartphone maker RIM's Blackberry platform, with Windows Mobile also losing a percentage point. RIM ended 2009 as the leading mobile smartphone operating system in the U.S., with 41.6 percent of the market, with Apple solidifying the second spot wrested from Microsoft last year with 25.3 percent (up 1.2 percent), followed by Microsoft with 18.0 percent (down 1 percent.) Palm continued to lose ground with a 2.2 percent dip to 6.1 percent, while Google's Android more than doubled its share to 5.2 percent, though it remain well back of the market leaders. (See chart.)
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