Hewlett-Packard Unveils Palm Pre 2

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) is launching the Pre 2, a new version of the smart phone developed by Palm, a company it bought in April for $1.2 billion. HP says the Palm Pre 2 will be available in France immediately, and will roll-out in the U.S. in the next few months. The carrier will be Verizon Wireless (VZ/VOD). The handset operates on webOS 2.0, the new operating system that HP has developed for the handset.

HP says that the smart phone will have "true multitasking," which is a way to move from one application -- like email -- to another -- say video playback. The Palm Pre 2 will allow users the ability to check websites before opening new applications and download data from social networks. It will also have the ability to download applications designed for it in much the same way that consumers can download Apple (AAPL) apps.

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At first glance, and perhaps at second glance as well, the handset does not appear to have much about it that is unique. When the initial version of the Palm Pre was released in June 2009, with Sprint-Nextel (S) as the carrier, sales for the first week were a remarkably poor 100,000 units.

There does not seem to be much reason to believe that the new Pre will do terribly well in the current environment. Apple iPhone sales topped 14 million in the quarter just reported. Google (GOOG) Android has gained a great deal of market share since June 2009. Nokia (NOK) has begun a desperate race into the smart phone market. Research In Motion (RIMM) has aggressively, though perhaps not successfully, defended its position in the enterprise segment of the smart phone market.

In other words, if anything, the smart phone market is more crowded than it was when the original Pre was launched and its feature-set does not seem to have much that would make it stand out.