A few weeks ago, HP released its WebOS 3.0 SDK to developers. Devs who get a prerelease version of an OS are generally bound under a strict "don't show people what we have" agreement, but that hasn't stopped one from doing just that, sending PreCentral.net a copy, which they ran in emulation to put the OS through its paces. And it looks decidedly cool.
As one might expect from a beta of a touch-based tablet OS,, which is destined for HP's announced TouchPad tablets and likely a new generation of Pre smartphones, looked something like iOS for the iPad in some ways (for better or worse).
That said, it also appears to have a few innovative features that improve over Apple's implementation, such as a three-paned e-mail view, better organization of browser windows, and an excellent-looking notification system.
In addition, 3.0 interestingly abandons Google's pervasive maps in favor of Microsoft's Bing maps. The new map app, like most of the others, is seen in the video after the jump, and it's impressive.
Facebook photo access is apparently built in, which is a smart move, and the photo and video album organization looks pretty slick.
But photos and videos might take a backseat to QuickOffice, as HP has stated that it's gearing the TouchPad to business users primarily. Though the version in the current SDK beta doesn't appear to work properly, it's telling that HP is including it. Apple's tablet users can currently edit Office docs on their iPads, but only with the addition of word processing and spreadsheet apps like Pages and Numbers, which are available in the App Store for $10.
It's important to note that the OS is running on a regular computer in an emulated environment, so there's no telling how it will run on the actual TouchPad hardware. In addition, it is a beta, meaning we can't fairly give it a full judgment yet.
Still, we're impressed with what we've seen. It's a contender, and easily has the ability to outperform Google's so-far half-baked tablet offerings, and could maybe even give the iPad a run for its money--. We've considered that WebOS has the potential as a dark horse in the , and this unofficial preview rather underscores the point. We can't wait to see what HP hasn't shown us yet.