HP TouchPad tablet unveiled

After much anticipation, HP shows off its first tablet using WebOS--and reveals its plans for WebOS on PCs and printers

The tablet landscape just got a bit more crowded: Hewlett-Packard's WebOS event here in San Francisco launched both the new HP Veer and the HP Pre 3 and the company's first consumer tablet. Due out this summer, the HP TouchPad appears set to stand out well in the ongoing tablet deluge.

[ TouchPad vs. iPad: Does HP have a chance? ]

The specs for the TouchPad are competitive, but only the processor--a dual-core 1.2-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon--catches attention. Beyond that, the specs sound fairly familiar: A 9.7-inch 1024 by 768 pixel display (less than the Android 3.0-based 1280 by 800 Motorola Xoom), 16GB or 32GB of storage, and a 1.3 megapixel webcam. The unit's dimensions feel fairly standard, too--0.54-inches thick, which puts it about the same or a sliver thicker than the Apple iPad and Motorola Xoom. It also weighs 1.6 pounds, same as Xoom, but 0.1-pounds more than the iPad.

The TouchPad is slated for release in summer, in a Wi-Fi version; 3G and 4G versions will come thereafter. Pricing was not announced today, which is to be expected given a release date that's months out. But the question of how the pricing will align with market-leader Apple's iPad still remains.

"This is just the start of HP's plan to build the largest installed base of connected customers in the world, says Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP's Personal Systems Group. "Virtually no other company could put forward this goal. HP is uniquely positioned to achieve this goal."

WebOS Software

Where HP's TouchPad will clearly shine is in its WebOS software. Interestingly, HP spoke nothing of having to optimize the OS for tablets, as Google did with its Android OS at last week's Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) event. Instead, HP simply let the product do the talking for it, by showing off how the TouchPad behaved with the WebOS software.

The demonstration during the event was compelling; the company displayed core apps that took full advantage of the TouchPad's large screen, navigational niceties that make moving among content, notifications, and apps as represented as Activity Cards (always a core part of WebOS' interface). Notably, HP announced it would be partnering with Amazon to include a Kindle e-reader app pre-installed on the device.

The integration with cloud services like Facebook looked solid. The social networking site functioned as seamlessly as it does already on WebOS phones. Even more compelling, though, was the demonstration of integrated printing, which HP says will work with "most" of its wireless printers released in the "past few" years. With the inclusion of printing, the tablet comes one step closer to being able to replace a laptop in the home.

Another nifty feature demonstrated today was the ability to share and pair content between WebOS phones and the TouchPad, simply by tapping the phone to the tablet.

WebOS Coming for HP Printers, PCs

The company also showed off a handful of accessories, including a flip-case that doubles as a stand (as does the Apple iPad case), a Touchstone dock, and a wireless keyboard. Again, no pricing supplied today.

Curiously, HP mentioned the "thousands" of developers working with WebOS, but didn't discuss the app challenge, vis a vis the iOS and Android competition. Right now, the WebOS app story is but a blip compared with those more established mobile operating systems.

That could change in a big way, though, with HP's dropping the bombshell that it would be bringing WebOS to its printers and personal computers. By doing so, HP introduces the OS to millions of devices that, if done well, could open up the scale of its app development dramatically.

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