His exit wasn't a surprise, according to AllThingsD, which said Rubinstein — a former Apple executive who helped develop the iPod — hadn't been seen at HP's offices in months.
After former HP CEO Leo Apotheker announced last year that the company was going to stop making WebOS-based hardware, Rubinstein's role appeared to be reduced and he was assigned to a "product innovation role" that AllThingsD said was a move intended to "lessen its PR impact when he finally left."
The tech blog quoted Rubinstein as saying he was going to take a "well-deserved break after four-and-a-half years of developing WebOS."
An engineer by training, Rubinstein left Apple in 2006 and later joined private equity firm Elevation Partners, a major investor in smartphone maker Palm. In June 2009 he replaced Ed Colligan as Palm's chief executive.
PalmOS was replaced by WebOS, which was used on several Palm devices and on HP's TouchPad tablet. This week, HP released a timeline for making its WebOS platform open source, with the goal of completing the process by September.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Jon Rubinstein at CES in Las Vegas in 2010. Credit: Michelle Maltais / Los Angeles Times
Hewlett-Packard, which announced last month that it would make its WebOS available to the open-source community, said Wednesday that the platform's full source code would be released to the public by September and gave a timeline for when it would release individual elements.
On Wednesday, the Palo Alto tech company released version 2.0 of WebOS's developer tool, Enyo, "giving the open-source community immediate access" to the application framework for WebOS.
Enyo 2.0 enables developers to write a single application that works across mobile devices and desktop Web browsers from the WebOS, iOS and Android platforms to Internet Explorer and Firefox.
"This is a decisive step toward meeting our goal of accelerating the platform's development and ensuring that its benefits will be delivered to the entire ecosystem of Web applications," Bill Veghte, HP's executive vice president and chief strategy officer, said in a statement.
The WebOS code will be made available under the Apache License, Version 2.0, beginning with the source code for Enyo.
Other individual elements of the WebOS source code, such as core applications like mail and calendar as well as its Linux kernel, will be made available until the full code base is contributed to the open-source community in the fall, HP said.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: An HP TouchPad tablet running apps on the WebOS operating system. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
Beats Electronics and Monster Cable Products, two companies that together defined the current $1-billion headphone industry with the Beats by Dr. Dre line, are parting ways at the end of the year.
But before the two become competitors in a segment of consumer electronics that is just as much about fashion as it is technology, a wave of new Beats by Dr. Dre headphones and boom boxes (built by Monster) will hit store shelves.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, I caught up with Jimmy Iovine, Beats Electronics' chairman and CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, to talk about what products the Beats brand had planned for 2012 (you can see our interview in the video above).
First up will be the new Mixr headphones, designed by Grammy-winning producer and DJ David Guetta. The Mixr is a lightweight and strong design — I twisted and bent the headband, and it returned to form and never felt week — that offers the bass-heavy sound Beats is known for. At $279, the Mixr is set to hit U.S. stores in early February in black and white. They're already available in Europe.
February will also see a wireless release of the Solo headphones, also priced at $279. And due in mid-September are the $349 Executive headphones, which bring a sleeker and more understated look with a leather headband and aluminum ear cups.
Iovine was also proud of the new BeatBox, a follow-up to the first-generation (and much less portable) BeatBox, which will sell at a price of $399. A release date hasn't yet been set for the new battery- or AC-powered BeatBox, which plays music from smartphones and MP3 players docked on the speaker setup.
Since launching in 2009, Beats has teamed with Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga and Sean "Diddy" Combs for artist-sponsored headphones. The Mixr is the only artist-specific set of headphones planned for 2012, Iovine said.
But this year we will see more HTC smartphones paired with Beats headphones as a result of HTC purchasing a $300-million stake in the audio company late last year, he said. And Beats speakers will be found not just in the Chrysler 300, as they were in 2011, but also in the Dodge Charger. And, as we saw at CES, Beats speakers are making their way into more HP laptops this year too.
After the Monster manufacturing deal expires at the end of the year, Beats plans to go out on its own, Iovine told my colleague Gerrick D. Kennedy on our sister blog Pop & Hiss. Despite reports to the contrary, Iovine said, the split was always the audio start-up's intention.
"It was always planned. It was always a five-year deal," Iovine said. "It was a manufacturing distribution deal. We were with Monster for headphones and speakers. It was always a plan to turn into a freestanding company."
Image: The Beats Executive headphones from Beats by Dr. Dre. Credit: Beats Electronics/Monster Cable Products
Surrounded by every electronic device imaginable at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, HP’s new Envy 14 Spectre is in a class by itself, mostly because the class it's in — “the premium consumer Ultrabook” – seems to have been invented just to have some place to put it. Let’s take a look.
The first descriptor used is “premium.” That’s a good one, and if you are paying $1,400 for something about the size and thickness of a place mat, whatever it is you are buying should be stamped with the word premium. Generally this would indicate a plethora of features, like Beats Audio for doctor-recommended sound quality (is Dr. Dre still licensed to practice in California?) and the HP Radiance Display that delivers 1600 x 900 lines of resolution. OK, the Spectre has all that. So far, so good.
Right after premium comes the word “consumer,” and that's a little odd because that usually indicates a dearth of features, where things are stripped out to make the product less confusing and cheaper or accessible to the masses, the opposite of premium. So that word makes the least sense, seeing as it has high-end video and audio (knob notwithstanding), a slew of inputs and outputs — including trusty old USB (though in it’s latest 3.0 variant), HDMI and Mini DisplyPort, and a $1,399.99 price tag on a laptop is enough to knock it out of the consumer arena and right back into premium land. It’s kind of like a rich kid who dresses in old clothes so he can make friends with the poor kids, then invites them to his birthday party at the country club with the strict dress code. Just because you add the “consumer” to something doesn’t make it any more affordable, it just makes it take longer to say.
Lastly, it’s an "Ultrabook" because it’s thin, and that’s what ultra means in computer-ese, and into its 20mm of thinness HP has crammed a good deal of stuff, like an Intel Core processor, HP Wireless Audio to stream your music throughout your home, a multitouch trackpad, an HD webcam and a battery that “boasts up to 9 hours” of life among other things. So maybe they are using “ultra” to mean “going beyond” because they amount of tech stuffed into this machine is beyond what one might expect in a package of its dimensions.
So, marketing lingo aside, the really interesting thing about the Envy 14 Spectre is the material used to build most of it: glass. Corning Gorilla Glass to be specific. Not surprisingly, the monitor is fronted with glass, but so is the rest of the lid. It’s almost as if they took a giant iPhone 4 and attached it with a hinge. So, right off the bat, half of the computer is built out of glass, then you have the palm rests and some of the chassis! All this makes for a more durable and lighter package, according to the company, though at about 4 pounds that last bit seems like we’re having our chocolate rations increased from 15 grams to 10 grams. But who cares what it weighs? It’s a laptop made out of glass! I’m not even sure what the advantage really would be for that, but I feel cooler just to have typed out that last sentence.
Perhaps the most telling thing about this device is who HP thinks would want it, and judging by the product photos in the company’s news release, they are aiming for the coveted “I’m far too cool to even acknowledge my expensive new computer sitting there” demographic.
– Tim French
Sports fans are familiar with the yellow first-down line that appears on the television screen while watching football games, but tech companies now want to bring augmented reality technology to everyday consumers.
Known as AR, augmented reality is a view of a physical, real-world environment that is altered by overlaying the image with digital photos, videos or text.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Sunday, Autonomy — a tech company that was acquired by Hewlett-Packard last year — was showing off its AR platform, Aurasma. Lauren Offers, director of marketing at Autonomy, held her business card in one hand and used her iPhone's camera to point at the card with her other hand. On the screen of the iPhone, a video of the rep appeared in which she introduced herself. Later, Offers pointed her phone at a physical copy of GQ magazine; that issue's articles and photos began appearing on the smartphone's screen over the live image of the magazine's cover.
With AR technology, a consumer simply uses a camera-equipped smartphone or tablet to point at an object to get information — aim at a jar of pasta sauce, and recommendations for what kinds of wine to pair it with will appear over the real-life image of the jar; point to a house for sale, and information about its asking price, number of bedrooms and contact info will pop up on the screen.
Aurasma's technology "allows smart devices to see, recognize and understand real-life images and objects in much the same way as the human brain does," the company said in a news release. "Aurasma then uses this fundamental understanding of the real world to seamlessly augment the scene with virtual content such as videos, animations and 3-D objects called 'auras.' No bar codes, visual tags or special glasses are required for Aurasma to work."
Autonomy has already tagged thousands of buildings in London with AR technology. If you're standing outside Buckingham Palace and point your smart device at it, for instance, dinosaurs will appear to come out of the building. The company has also tagged everyday items such as a $20 bill — point your phone or tablet at the image of the White House on the back and its elements will come to life: the building appears to turn white, the little flag grows in size, the numbers wiggle and appear to float.
"It's changing the way we access information," said Tamara Roukaerts, head of marketing for Aurasma. "You blend off-line and online: this is the beginning of the outernet; it's actually woven into the real world. And that's how you want your information."
In a recent Times article, my colleague Shan Li wrote that about 6 million AR apps were downloaded in 2010, according to ABI Research — still a small fraction of the overall app market. But the number is projected to increase to 19 million downloads in 2011 and balloon to nearly a billion by 2016. The firm forecasts the mobile AR industry will see $3 billion in global revenue by 2016, up from $87 million this year and $21 million in 2010.
More than 2 million users have downloaded Aurasma and Aurasma-enabled apps since its launch six months ago. The Aurasma app is available for free on the iPhone3GS, 4, 4S, iPad2 and Android devices.
Aurasma will be competing in the final of the CES Mobile Apps Showdown at the Wynn on Thursday.
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
Hewlett-Packard said it will make its WebOS software available to the open-source community and Chief Executive Meg Whitman said in two separate interviews that there are plans to create new WebOS hardware — including tablets.
The announcement is the latest reversal for HP after the company indicated over the summer that it was going in a different direction. In August, then-CEO Leo Apotheker said HP would ditch its smartphones and TouchPad tablet computers and was considering spinning off its PC operations. Two months later, HP said it would keep making PCs under new CEO Whitman (Apotheker was fired shortly after his August announcement).
On Friday, the Palo Alto tech giant said that it planned to continue to be active in the development and support of WebOS, and that by combining the platform with the development power of the open-source community, "there is the opportunity to significantly improve applications and Web services for the next generation of devices."
The WebOS platform offers several benefits to the ecosystem of Web apps, HP said, including allowing developers to easily build applications using standard Web technologies. For device manufacturers, it provides a single Web-centric platform to run across multiple devices.
"As a result, the end user benefits from a fast, immersive user experience," HP said.
The announcement sparked speculation that HP would get back into the tablet business, and in interviews with the Verge and TechCrunch, Whitman said the company planned to roll out new devices in the future, probably in 2013.
TechCrunch also obtained an internal email Whitman sent out to HP staff announcing the WebOS news. In it, the former California gubernatorial candidate thanked employees for their efforts "under very difficult circumstances during these last couple of months."
Of WebOS, she said in the memo: "Together, we have an opportunity to make it the foundation of a new generation of devices, applications and services to address the rapidly evolving demands of both consumers and enterprises."
So far, HP hasn't seen much success with its TouchPad tablets. The company had high hopes for the device as a rival to Apple Inc.'s iPad and for its smartphones, both based on the WebOS software that the company picked up in acquiring Palm Inc. last year. But neither the tablet nor such phones as the Palm Pri, Pixi and Veer have caught on with consumers, and after Apotheker's departure, HP was forced to slash TouchPad prices to $99, which spurred sales.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Former California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman was named chief executive of HP in September. Credit: Jose Luis Villegas / Reuters
The HP TouchPad isn't dead yet. While Chief Executive Meg Whitman and the top brass at Hewlett-Packard Co. decide what to do with WebOS, the tech giant is reportedly set to sell one last batch of TouchPads at the fire-sale price of $99 on EBay.
The last time HP marked its lone consumer-minded tablet down to $99, the company did so in an effort to unload the slow-selling slates after Whitman's predecessor, Leo Apotheker, decided to abandon WebOS and WebOS devices such as the TouchPad and the Pre smartphones.
Officals at HP were unavailable for comment Wednesday night on the reported EBay sale.
The TouchPads that will reportedly hit EBay will all be refurbished units and they'll hit the online retail and auction website at 6 p.m. Dec. 11. A TouchPad with 16 gigabytes of built-in storage will sell for $99, and those with 32 gigabytes of storage will be available at $149, the reports said.
HP employees will have a chance to buy the refurbished TouchPads on EBay — and not on HP's own online stores or anywhere else — before the sale goes live to the public, TechCrunch said.
"In an effort to give HP employees first chance at a very limited supply of refurbished TouchPads, there will be a short delay between when the product is posted live for sale on EBay and when the general public is notified of the sale," the memo reportedly said.
HP will also be selling "an optional three-piece accessory bundle with a case, charging dock and wireless keyboard for $79.
TouchPads will be limited to two per EBay user "sold on a first come, first served basis," the reports said.
So, who's excited about possibly buying a tablet with probably little or no app or manufacturer support?
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: A Hewlett-Packard TouchPad tablet running apps on its WebOS operating system. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times