HP Unveils TouchPad on webOS

HP announced its bringing the webOS, the highly-regarded smartphone mobile operating system, to the big screen, or at least one a lot bigger than any phone. Today HP (NYSE: HPQ) previewed the TouchPad, a tablet computer that's destined to compete with Apple's market-leading iPad; the soon-to-be-released Playbook from BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion and the raft of new Android-based tablets that have already emerged this year.

But even as rumors swirl of an impending "iPad 2" release, anyone interested in HP's TouchPad will have to wait -- the company said the device won't be available until this summer and, for now, isn't saying what the price will be.

The TouchPad's 9.7-inch screen makes it about the same size as the iPad, but there are also a number of key differences in the webOS-powered device starting with a front-facing camera for video calls and built-in support for Adobe's multimedia Flash software.

With the TouchPad's HP Synergy feature, users can sign in to their Facebook, Google, Microsoft Exchange, LinkedIn or Yahoo accounts and have all their contacts, calendar and email automatically populate your TouchPad.

There is also a very different user interface and full multitasking support. The TouchPad uses a card metaphor the company said is more visually accessible than the "sea of application icons on numerous home screens."

Analyst Tim Bajarin said the webOS card metaphor is easy to grasp but, just as when the iPhone first came out, is something new users will have to get used to. "How they integrate applications and social media and handle multitasking was quite impressive," Bajarin, principal analyst with Creative Strategies, told InternetNews.com.

"The one thing that's clear both Android and webOs does better than the iPad is multitasking, but we don't what's going to be in the next rev of iOS. iPad still leads the tablet market," he added.

"HP is finally making a run for the next-generation OS that will be used across all platforms including the PC," Maribel Lopez, principal analyst with Lopez Research, told InternetNews.com. "Microsoft can't be happy about this."

While the bulk of iPhone and iPad sales have been to consumers, the devices have also sold well to business and enterprise users. HP has already released a separate Windows 7-based tablet for the enterprise. "The TouchPad is clearly a consumer-focused device," said Bajarin.

But there will be some business-friendly features. For example, HP said it's working with Quickoffice to include the Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite, which lets users view and edit documents, such as Microsoft Word and Excel. It also comes with VPN support to connect to corporate networks.

Also, an integrated messaging feature combines text messages, picture messages and IM conversations with one person into a single view.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

TAGS:

mobile, tablet, HP, hardware, Palm

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