With its 9.7 inch display you would be forgiven for thinking you were looking at an iPad, but it's not, it's HP's second shot at creating a tablet. This time, however, the technology giant has made sure their new product can favorably compare to Apple's market leading tablet.
The key here is that the tablet runs webOS, a well-thought of operating system, but one with low market share numbers -- and, more importantly, far fewer developers supporting it than either Apple's iOS or Google's Android.
“Today we’re embarking on a new era of webOS with the goal of linking a wide family of HP products through the best mobile experience available,” said Jon Rubinstein, senior vice president and general manager of HP's Palm Global Business Unit. “The flexibility of the webOS platform makes it ideal for creating a range of innovative devices that work together to keep you better connected to your world.”
The specs of HP's new tablet are impressive: Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-CPU APQ8060 1.2-GHz processor, a 9.7" display at 1,024 x 768 resolution, 16 or 32 gigs of storage, WiFi, Bluetooth, A-GPS, front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera for video calling, and a micro-USB connection for charging and connecting to a PC.
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Essentially, these are the specs of a current iPad or with the addition of the camera, the expected second generation iPad -- including those internal storage numbers. What the webOS tablet will do, that the iPad can not, is run Flash -- one of those points of differentiation that would not be very important if Apple would simply create a Click to Flash option for its iOS devices.
The odd thing here is that once again HP has made its announcement way ahead of any actual product shipments: the WiFi models are promised this summer, followed by 3G and 4G models later. That is too bad because the tablet HP has come up with looks like a legitimate alternative to the iPad.
What media executives will wonder, of course, is do they add a webOS device to the already long list of devices they are developing for. My guess is that vendors will make this decision easier by including webOS in their bag of tricks.
HP certainly thinks webOS will be no obstacle for media companies. Late into their presentation today Steven McArthur, SVP of applications and services, made his pitch to publishers, then introduced Randall Rothenberg, chief digital officer at Time Inc., who showed off Time, People and Sports Illustrated magazines.
Can magazines and newspapers be a point of differentiation for HP? What one needs, of course, is a simply, easy to use app store. Certainly Apple is counting on its established products such as iTunes, the App Store, and its large and growing user base to continue to draw in publishers to its platform.
Then there is the price, surely HP will undercut Apple as they have other manufacturers, right? Well, there was nothing today from HP about what the price points will be for the TouchPad. No solid ship date, no pricing -- one could get really cynical right about now. But there are enough webOS advocates out there to convince me that it is best to take a wait-and-see approach. Of course, that won't stop the media from passing judgment within the first 15 minutes of the presentation ending.