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HP tech chief: WebOS central to many products

Speaking at the Techonomy conference, Shane Robison says that most of the company's printers will soon be Web-connected and promises lots of HP-designed and third-party apps to come.

HP's Shane Robison talked about the opportunities a growing middle class will mean for the technology industry and the challenges for society that growth will create. Ina Fried/CNET

TRUCKEE, Calif.--HP Chief Technology Officer Shane Robison said that the company's acquisition of Palm will influence a range of products including slates and other computers, smartphones, as well as next-generation printers.

"What Palm gives us is a modern, Web-oriented, connected operating system," Robison said, speaking at the Techonomy conference here.

While HP has said that before, Robison suggested the degree to which WebOS will affect the product line is perhaps greater than some people think. For example, Robison said that most of the company's printers will soon be Web-connected and able to print without a computer. The WebOS allows HP to have a consistent interface across many of these devices, he said.

"We've got an app store," he said. There will be a whole developer community, along with a range of HP-designed applications.

In an brief interview after his talk, Robison said that although WebOS will have a role on Netbooks, it won't replace Windows for people looking to do productivity tasks.

"We're not trying to wreck the market we've already got," he said. "It's a good one."

As for privacy, one of the thorny topics that has come up several times at the conference, Robison said it will take time. He said that standards and industrywide efforts are needed.

"It's going to be combination of policy and technology," Robison said. "It's just one of those hard problems we have to solve. (I'm) not sure there is an easy answer short term."

Robison said that computing is shifting from a focus on productivity to communications.

"It's just a whole different experience," he said.

That said, it is the increase in the global middle class that will guarantee the industry's growth in the coming years.

"Our view is that's a matter of timing," Robison said. "I won't try to predict the timing. (That) period of growth (is) in not too distant future."