updated 02:25 pm EST, Wed February 9, 2011
HP TouchPad webOS tablet finally official
HP today raised the stakes in tablet competition today by launching the TouchPad. The 9.7-inch tablet is its direct challenger to the iPad and relies on a new version of webOS designed to use the larger screen size. It now has app tabs, pop-overs and split views that take advantage of the OS regardless of the orientation; users can even customize the onscreen keyboard to one of four sizes. Synergy is also now more aggressive and can pass text messages on to the device, users can now post to Twitter directly, and the notification system now has a triage method to filter alerts and even answer them directly.
Flash support is now a core feature and should see at least a beta of Flash 10.1 along with full HTML5 support. As webOS is a true multitasking OS, users can run multiple apps in the background
The device is also a showcase for the second generation Touchstone technology also found in the Pre3 and Veer. Along with the Exhibition mode that can cue up clocks, GPS and other apps when touching the wireless charger, devices can also now talk to each other. A user can share a web link from another webOS phone just by bringing it close.
Content is getting more important with not just an Amazon Kindle app enroute but an HP Movie Store to download both movies and TV.
The hardware is a major leap from both old and new phones alike with a dual-core, 1.2GHz Snapdragon and much faster Adreno 220 graphics. Although there's no back camera, a 1.3-megapixel front camera provides both photos and videos as well as two-way video calls. Beats audio is lifted from HP's computers to provide a wider audio response and better than usual output, even over speakers; HP bundles Beats headphones in the box.
The device is roughly as light (1.6 pounds) and as thin (0.54 inches) as an iPad despite having a large 6,300mAh battery, although HP hasn't said how long it should last on a charge.
Despite HP's claims of a near term release for announcements today, versions of the TouchPad aren't due until the summer. The company will start modestly with 16GB and 32GB Wi-Fi versions but plans to move to 3G and 4G in the future. Prices haven't come about but are expected to be competitive. Accessories are already being named and should include a unique easel-style Touchstone dock, a Bluetooth keyboard and a hybrid case and stand.