On Weednesday, Hewlett-Packard and its subsidiary Palm summoned select members of the press to a news conference to reveal their mobile efforts. Three products came to light at the conference.
The first is the Vree, a compact smartphone the size of a credit card and no thicker than a deck of cards. The second is the high-end Pre3 smartphone aimed at business users. The third and the most anticipated is their inaugural webOS tablet called TouchPad, due this summer. The incredibly sleek and well-designed slate nearly matches the iPad size, thinness and weight. The tablet works with the Touchstone wireless charger, but HP wouldn't rate the TouchPad's battery life at press time.
The gizmo has the same 9.7-inch capacitive multitouch display at 1024 x 768 pixel resolution. Inside, a dual-core Qualcomm SnapdragonAPQ8060 processor ticks clocked at 1.2GHz frequency, powerful enough to run sophisticated apps while you quickly switch between them using simple gestures. Unlike Apple's gizmo, the TouchPad has a video camera on the front used for videoconferencing in 1.3-megapixel quality. There's no camera on the back.
The tablet, which comes in WiFi and 3G flavors like the iPad, integrates with other webOS-powered devices effortlessly. For example, you can answer phone calls and view or send text messages right on the TouchPad.
Another cool thing to brag in front of your friends: Just tap the phone to the tablet to share web addresses between devices. The tablet also runs an improved web browser which supports the latest HTML5 standard and includes Flash Player 10.1 so you know who to blame when your battery dries up.
Like on a smaller screen, webOS runs your apps in the form of cards which can be flicked through in order to quickly move between different tasks. When new activities are launched, webOS automatically groups related cards to make it easier to track related items. For example, a stack might group an email and an associated web page. The TouchPad also has the home screen, which HP describe as "a visual representation of your workspace" designed to let you work in a way that's "easy and fun." Another surprise - its virtual QWERTY keyboard includes a number row.
Business users will appreciate VPN support and the preloaded Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite allowing you to view and edit Microsoft Office Word and Excel documents on the go and store them to your Google Docs or Box.net cloud storage. Many more programs are available on the webOS App Catalog, the official online repository for webOS apps. However, it's unclear at this stage whether the gizmo will run the existing library of apps written for smaller webOS form factors, like the Pre family of phones.
Another nice-to-have: The TouchPad's built-in photos app connects to popular photo sites like Facebook, Snapfish and Photobucket. Amazon confirmed plans to bring its Kindle app to the device and HP's own digital movie store is included so you can buy Hollywood movies and TV shows, if you like. You can normally transfer music from your computer using the music app. Audiophiles will love the product's internal stereo speakers and Beats Audio technology that enhances sound quality.
A long and impressive list of capabilities doesn't end here - the TouchPad runs HP Synergy, which is another extremely convenient software feature traditionally associated with webOS. HP Synergy pulls all your contact information into one place - the stuff like email, contacts and calendars from Facebook, Google, Microsoft Exchange, LinkedIn and Yahoo! - as well as collect your text, picture and instant messages (Google Talk, AIM and Yahoo! Messenger) exchanged with a contact into a single view.
HP's slate could beat Apple's tablet in several areas, including video calling, higher-quality audio, Adobe Flash support, the inclusion of gyroscope, and seamless integration with other webOS devices (like the aforementioned ability to send text messages).
Most importantly, HP's device runs webOS, arguably the most sophisticated mobile operating system out there which is now fully realized in the tablet experience. Of course, such a comparison isn't fair because the original iPad is practically obsolete as Apple is allegedly prepping to launch the iPad 2 , described as thinner, lighter and faster than its predecessor.
HP TouchPad in bullets
- HP webOS
- High-speed connectivity
- Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-CPU APQ8060 1.2-GHz processor
- 9.7-inch diagonal XGA capacitive, multitouch screen with a vibrant, 18-bit color, 1,024 x 768 resolution display
- The option of either 16 GB or 32 GB of internal storage
- High-performance browser with full access to the web, including support for Adobe Flash Player 10.1 beta for access to rich, Flash-based web content
- Wireless connectivity:
- Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n with WPA, WPA2, WEP, 802.1X authentication
- A-GPS (3G only)
- Bluetooth wireless technology 2.1 + EDR with A2DP stereo Bluetooth support
- Multimedia options, including music, photos, video recording and playback, and a 3.5 mm headset/headphone/microphone jack
- Internal stereo speakers and Beats Audio
- Front-facing 1.3-megapixel webcam for live video calling
- Email, including EAS (for access to corporate Microsoft Exchange servers) and personal email support (Google Gmail push, Yahoo!, POP3, IMAP)
- Robust messaging support
- Light sensor, accelerometer, compass (magnetometer) and gyroscope
- Rechargeable 6,300 mAh (typical) battery
- Micro-USB (Charging and PC Connect) with USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
- Built-in HP Touchstone technology for easy charging (HP Touchstone for TouchPad sold separately) and HP touch-to-share to share web
- addresses between TouchPad and compatible webOS phones
- Dimensions: 190 mm x 242 mm x 13.7 mm (7.48 inches x 9.53 inches x .54 inches)
- Weight: approximately 740 g (1.6 pounds)