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HP mum on Windows, flexible on displays

Palm's WebOS will help HP get in the mobile market with slates and smartphones, but long-term it's also looking at making waves with display technology.

HP's Phil McKinney shows off a flexible display prototype that could make mobile devices more compelling in the future.
HP's Phil McKinney shows off a flexible display prototype that could make mobile devices more compelling in the future. Tom Krazit/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO--Hewlett-Packard mobile evangelist Phil McKinney didn't have much new to say Monday about HP's mobile operating strategy, but did highlight the company's work on new display technology.

McKinney, vice president and chief technology officer for HP's personal systems group, kicked off the MobileBeat 2010 conference with a brief presentation followed by a question-and-answer session in which he reaffirmed the current goal of the personal computing industry: to figure out what the hell people want in a device bigger than a smartphone but smaller than a notebook PC. Now armed with Palm's WebOS operating system following its completion of that acquisition two weeks ago, McKinney promised that HP would build slates and phones that are both "open" in terms of application development and consistent in terms of the user experience across multiple devices.

He didn't have anything new to discuss, such as whether or not HP is still planning to build slate devices based on Microsoft's Windows 7. But one technology that could make a difference in how consumers adopt these middle-of-the-road devices is a flexible display, which McKinney unrolled from a cardboard tube to show off to attendees.

Flexible display is one of those tech-industry ideas that has been about five years away from becoming reality for around 10 years. We're still pretty far away from the ultimate goal of a computing device you can roll up and stick in your pocket, McKinney said, but HP Labs has been doing a lot of work on this technology over the past few years and has gotten to the point where it can marry its investment in transistors and printing technology to literally print these kinds of displays.

The display McKinney showed off can show video and is probably best suited for some sort of wallpaper-like effect, he said. He steered clear of putting any definitive time frame on when it might be ready for actual devices or displays.