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HP Unveils TouchPad Tablet With Palm WebOS

February 10, 2011

Hewlett-Packard Co. unveiled a TouchPad tablet computer on Wednesday as its initial entry into a fast-growing market dominated by Apple Inc.’s iPad and devices running Google Inc.’s software.

The company said the 9.7-inch “TouchPad” will be released this summer, and will be powered by Palm’s well-regarded webOS operating system.

HP is betting that there remains enough room in the lucrative tablet computing market for yet another mobile software platform.

However, it’s a risky move, underscored by the fact Nokia may abandon its own software in favor of Google’s or Microsoft Corp’s.

Jon Rubinstein, HP’s senior vice president, unveiled the new TouchPad to widespread praise in a pavilion in San Francisco.

“TouchPad is more than just a pretty face,” said Rubinstein, who was part of the Apple team that launched the iPod.

“The TouchPad is all about you; how you work, play, and connect with the things you value most,” he said.

TouchPad will be the first tablet in a portfolio of products running Palm’s webOS software platform.

HP acquired Palm last year in a $1.2-billion deal.  Rubenstein was chief executive of Palm at the time.

“No one has come close to replicating our webOS experience,” said Rubinstein.

The new TouchPad includes 9.7-inch display and weighs about 1.5 pounds — the same weight and screen size as the iPad.

Rubenstein did not disclose the price, but said the TouchPad includes a Qualcomm processor that is “screaming fast”.

The TouchPad software allows for easy multi-tasking, and supports Adobe Flash software typically used in online video.

The device also features a camera for video calling, in contrast to the iPad, which does not run Flash or have a camera.

The TouchPad will likely be very popular among application developers due to the ease in which they can convert software created for iPads.  Furthermore, HP will allow freedom when it comes to making money from “apps,” said Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps during an interview with the AFP news agency.

However, “consumers will consider the TouchPad, and then buy an iPad,” she said.

“This product has a chance to beat RIM and any individual Android tablet, but not Apple.”

Digital magazine publishers such as Time Inc. and electronic book giant Amazon.com are among TouchPad’s launch partners, the AFP reported.

“We are making this a great platform for reading books by partnering with Amazon on Kindle software,” Rubinstein said.

WebOS strengths include multi-tasking abilities such as allowing users to pause while reading an e-book to take a video call, conduct an Internet search and print wirelessly to an HP printer.

The Palo Alto, California-based computer giant did not elaborate on whether its personal computers would be running on webOS, which would be a direct challenge to Windows-based machines.  Microsoft has been a longtime HP partner.

However, Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP’s personal systems group, said the company is investing “meaningful talent and significant resources” into webOS.

Shares of HP’s stock rose 1.66 percent on Wednesday.

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