Feb. 9, 2011 at 1:42 PM ET
HP Palm unveiled a 9.7-inch tablet Wednesday called the TouchPad that could be a serious challenger to Apple's iPad. No pricing was given for the tablet, which is expected to be available this summer.
The TouchPad runs on the webOS operating system, the same one used in Palm phones. Both the phones and operating system have gotten high marks for ease of use. The TouchPad also is a differentiator among an increasingly crowded tablet field filled with devices running on Google's Android operating system.
HP executive vice president Todd Bradley also announced that the company plans to incorporate the webOS into the PCs it makes. (HP bought Palm last year.)
"I'm excited to announce that we're bringing webOS to the device that has the biggest reach of all: the personal computer," he said at the San Francisco event where the tablet was introduced.
Bradley did not specify whether webOS would be an add-on to other available operating systems — most notably Microsoft's Windows, or whether it would be as a sole offering. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
The TouchPad will have a 1.3-megapixel webcam and support video calling. It also will have stereo speakers. The Wi-Fi tablet will use a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.2 GHz processor, and come in 16 GB or 32 GB versions. Coming later: Both 3G (third-generation cellular wireless) and 4G (fourth-generation) TouchPads that can run on cellular networks.
The TouchPad will be able to display Web pages using Adobe Flash, something Apple does not allow on its iPad, which has been hugely successful. The TouchPad has the same size screen as the iPad, and also weighs about the same, 1.6 pounds.
TouchPad users will also be able to "pause a game, tap an e-mail notification, check your calendar, read a restaurant review, send an IM, then switch back to the game without closing anything," HP Palm said, bringing the same multitasking abilities to the tablet that the Palm Pre and Pixi phones have because of the webOS operating system.
A new version of the Pre, called the Pre 3, will be released this summer, and is aimed at the business market, a "smart phone for professionals," said Jon Rubinstein, HP senior v-p and the man who helped create the Palm Pre that was first unveiled two years ago. The Pre 3 will have a 3.6-inch screen.
Also introduced by HP Wednesday was a smaller version of the Pre called the HP Veer. It's about the size of a credit card and will be available this spring. Pricing was not disclosed on either the Veer or the Pre 3.
The TouchPad and Pre 3 can "talk" to each other, sharing information, and the webOS operating system, also known for its multitasking abilities — "looks amazing here," commented an Engadget writer live-blogging the event. "Would make using a tablet roughly a million times easier."
Morningstar analyst Michael Holt told Reuters he feels "confident" that HP Palm will "put out a quality product, but whether they can get a lot of traction this late in the game remains to be seen. But it's a better strategy than just putting out another Android product."
One area where the new tablet will lag behind Apple is in the number of apps, or programs, that are available. Palm's App Catalog has more than 5,000 apps; Apple's App Store, more than 300,000, with more than 60,000 specifically for the iPad.
Meanwhile, production on Apple's iPad 2, with a front-facing camera and faster processor, is underway, according to a report Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal.
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