Palm WebOS 2.0: Now This Is Multitasking

WebOS 2.0. It's really happening, and it's coming soon. Amidst the turmoil and the headlines and the doom-dropping, Palm's been busy: WebOS 2.0 looks like it'll be better than the original in basically every way.

Right now, Palm's only talking about the new developer features, but you definitely can start to get a sense of what the new user features are. It's clear they've thought deeply about how to extend the OS and make it more powerful, which is the main focus of the new developer tools and features. So, here's what's new, in a nutshell.

• Stacks
Take Palm's fantastic card metaphor—which might be the best multitasking UI on any phone—and bump it to the next logical level. Stacks automatically sorts cards into groups, so it's easier to manage a dozen open apps. For instance, if you click a link in an email, it'll open the browser in a card in that same stack. And you can arrange and re-arrange cards into stacks however you want. The net effect seems like it'll be an even more elegant and usable way to multitask, if stacks is implemented right.

• Just Type
Palm's renamed universal search, so now it's called "Just Type." Which is dandy and all, but what's really new is that developers can plug into it—so it can search within apps, locally or online (think searching for music in Spotify, that's either cached locally or on the interwebs). And there's something new called Quick Actions, which lets you do things without even launching an app, like update your status on Twitter or Facebook; search through a favorite website; or start writing an email or text. Plus, you can "define your own Quick Actions," which Palm says will let you do stuff like create shopping lists or set reminders. We'll see how powerful the feature really is, but the potential seems pretty fantastic.

• Developers can tap Synergy
Developers will be able to connect to Synergy, Palm's cloud-y service that stored all of your contacts and calendars and made the whole integrated social networking stuff work. What that means that they'll be able to tap your Synergy-stored contacts, calendars and messages, and later on, be able to use Synergy to connect to an app's services, like an IM network or online contact list.

• Exhibition
Basically, apps will be able to display stuff on the phone when it's connected to a Touchstone charger, like stocks or news or whatever, turning it into a little widget machine, like a Chumby. Clever, and logical.

• HTML5, Javascript Services and PDK Plug-ins
All of this stuff is really for developers, but if you wanna bottom line it, it means way more powerful apps.

The new PDK architecture means devs will be able to use Palm's PDK like a true plug-in, so apps can mix web technologies and C/C++, which'll let an app be written with mostly lightweight web stuff but still run heavy duty graphics (also, Palm says, it'll be easier for devs to port apps, like from iOS).

HTML5 support is a big deal for WebOS, since most apps are written with web technologies. What Palm's bringing to the table is enhanced Canvas support (including image data and gradients), web storage support (local and session storage) and geolocation support and application cache, so websites can cache stuff on the phone for offline use.

Finally, Node.js is built into webOS 2.0, so devs can develop services in JavaScript, which makes the web technologies side of webOS 2.0 stronger. As part of the new webOS 2.0 APIs, it adds more background processing and other capabilities, like low-level networking and filesystem access, so even sticking with web languages to develop a webOS app, developers will have more firepower at their fingertips.

Palm isn't getting into the consumer side of webOS 2.0 yet, but based on the developer stuff, which looks pretty good, it could be interesting, to say the least. It's coming out by the end of the year for current devices—now Palm just needs a pair of ass-beating new phones to ship this on. [Palm]