HP Debuts TouchPad – The First Real Contender to iPad?
The wait is over … HP launched its webOS tablet, dubbed TouchPad. Believe it or not, it’s much more than an iPad competitor. HP’s level of integration and innovation on this device show a very Apple-like approach to a device ecosystem, and it should come as no surprise, considering Jon Rubinstein (now a senior VP and general manager at HP following its acquisition of Palm in 2010) previously had a successful career at Apple. Although I haven’t actually played with the product, at first blush it looks as through HP hit the nail on the head with the TouchPad. Here’s why:
First, photo credits go to Engadget, which broadcast HP’s webOS event live, during which I obtained the photos. In addition to the TouchPad, HP also announced at the event two new HP/Palm phones — the Pre3 and the Veer, a credit card-sized phone with some quality guts.
But the star of the show was clearly the TouchPad, which is a decent contender to the lineup of Android tablets on display last month at CES 2011. TouchPads will come in 16GB or 32GB flavors, with Wi-Fi connectivity coming this summer and 3G and 4G models to arrive later in the year. It packs a beefy dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon CPU, along with the same-size screen and resolution as the iPad — 9.7 inches at 1024×768. HP has also included a 1.3MP front facing webcam (but no rear camera) and quality stereo speakers.
But the real reason the TouchPad has the potential to kick some serious iPad butt is HP’s “touch to share” technology. HP hasn’t said whether it’s RFID or near-field communication or simply Wi-Fi, but the technology enables users of Pre3 or Veer users to transfer information from the phone to the TouchPad (or vice versa) simply by touching the two devices together. HP presented a demo of the technology, in which a Pre3 was tapped to the TouchPad, and suddenly, the web page on the TouchPad was available on the Pre3.
Text messages and other notifications also can be transferred between the devices, giving users what the BlackBerry Playbook wants to do (except the Playbook is useless without a BlackBerry). I would LOVE this feature with my iPhone and iPad. (I’m holding out for this with iPad 2 and iPhone 5.) But this tightly knit level of integration is something vendors just can’t do (or, at least, do well) with Android device fragmentation. (Argue with me in the comments.)
All the webOS multitasking card-based features are there, along with all the Flash-enabled goodness. We already know the webOS user experience is great. Some of the tablet applications do look a lot like Apple’s iOS implementations (like the mail app) but overall, there’s a good polish that is uniquely HP/Palm. Notifications don’t arrive front and center like iOS, or get hidden away in a menu bar like Android. They fade in over the right side of the screen in a bubble, and then fade away. Wireless printing, magazines, a new Kindle app and a few other developer demos flexed some 3D muscle on the TouchPad, too.
A size-adjustable onscreen keyboard for different fingers is a pleasant touch (no pun intended), and initial reports are that all animation, sounds and visuals are super smooth and super pleasing. I’ve always felt if Android’s app base was laid on top of webOS, there would be a robust and stylish competitor to the iPhone, so I’m hoping developers hop on board with HP.
HP also has developed a keyboard and docking station for the TouchPad, for obvious reasons. No price tag has been announced yet.
The, as an added ‘wow,’ HP finished up its presentation by saying webOS would be coming to PCs in about a year. It’s an exciting time to be a consumer.