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Summary:

Hewlett-Packard’s TouchPad tablet launches July 1 using the same pricing scheme as Apple’s iPad. Early looks at the device show an elegant, effective user interface, but a relatively lack of third-party applications could make it difficult to convince consumers to buy HP’s tablet instead of Apple’s.

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Hewlett-Packard’s TouchPad tablet launches July 1 using the same pricing scheme as Apple’s iPad. HP announced availability of the two Wi-Fi slates Thursday, priced at $499 for a 16 GB version and $599 for 32 GB of storage. The tablets will launch first in the U.S., followed by the U.K., Ireland, France, Germany and Canada in the first half of July. Pre-orders for HP’s TouchPad begin June 19 in North America and Europe.

The pricing for HP’s TouchPad isn’t the only similarity between it and the iPad. HP’s tablets share many similar hardware features, such as the same 9.7-inch touchscreen with 1024 x 768 resolution, storage capacity, front facing camera and single home button at the bottom of the device. And like the iPad 2, HP has opted for a dual-core processor to power its tablet, but HP has also attempted some differentiation, especially when it comes to the software.

WebOS, originally created by Palm and later acquired along with that company by HP for $1.2 billion in April of 2010, is the TouchPad’s mobile platform. The operating system itself is a strong rival to iOS, BlackBerry, and Android, given its elegance and simplicity. When I owned a webOS device, it wowed me in terms of multitasking capability, user interface and its excellent notification system.

The reason I left webOS behind in early 2010, was because of a lack of top-tier software titles, and that remains a challenge for HP. I didn’t sell my Palm Pre smartphone because of webOS or because of the hardware. The handset simply couldn’t keep up with my growing need to find software I both needed and wanted to use. Other platforms fit those needs better, and it will be interesting to see if that’s still the case.

In a sense, I hope not, because what we’ve seen so far from HP’s TouchPad has impressed. Om took a first look at the TouchPad in February, saying,

In theory it seems to be one of the best competitors for the Apple iPad (I think Google’s Android OS on tablets is a tad half-baked). By using its core multitasking features, HP has created an extremely integrated user experience that marries applications to actual usage behavior and workflows. There is certain seamlessness to the new WebOS, something one typically expects from Apple. If the demo was an indication, then I really did want to use it.

The Apple-like user experience Om witnessed is sure to add appeal to the TouchPad. So too will the integration between webOS phones and the tablet. By physically tapping an HP smartphone to the tablet, you can wirelessly transfer a website you have open on one device to the other using HP’s Touchstone technology.

For many though, the potential purchase choice will come to two aspects: software availability and the Apple-like pricing. Without software, how will HP convince buyers to purchase a TouchPad, when a comparable tablet with a much more extensive software library is priced the same? At the risk of over-emphasizing the point, this tweet from one of our readers sums up the TouchPad’s challenge nicely:

  1. Hi Kevin – thanks for the thoughtful piece. Consumer market is important, but here’s another tweet worth considering:

    Leo: TouchPad “designed from the ground up w/ enterprise in mind…in security and in running enterprise applications” $HPQ #hpdiscover

    Best,

    Ethan
    HP Corporate Communications

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    1. Thanks for joining the conversation, Ethan, and I totally understand that the TouchPad & webOS will also appeal to the enterprise. The native email, calendar, and other apps are sure to get a foot in the business door (as will the HP brand itself – I worked in I.T. for over 15 years and HP was everywhere!), but the same functionality is available on competing products, so it’s not a lock. Apple also has early-mover status in this area with many companies already deployed or testing for potential deployment.

      In any case, competition is good for all and as I said in the post, I’m a fan of webOS, so I’m looking forward to how this all shakes out. Thanks!

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      1. Thanks Kevin – appreciate the thoughts and well wishes. Since we’re on the subject, here’s another bit of strategic differentiation to stew on. Don’t consider this an endorsement…just FYI:

        http://www.channelbuzz.ca/2011/03/is-the-channel-hp%E2%80%99s-secret-weapon-for-touchpad-1520/

        Ethan
        HP Corporate Communications

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  2. It’s funny, because when I said on Twitter that I feel HP has the household name and can appeal to the average consumer, I didn’t even think the other way around.

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  3. We’re almost finished with PamFax for webOS (great for the expected target enterprise audience) and it should be availble on time for launch. Besides webOS we already have apps for iPhone and Android.

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  4. Cool!!! =)

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  5. Lucian Armasu Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Since ecosystems are what truly matter right now, not so much the OS itself or how good it looks, I think HP should do more than just say WebOS is available for licensing.

    It’s still very early for Android to have “won” the tablet market (besides iPad of course) and Windows is not even in the game right now. HP has a real opportunity here to push WebOS hard to whoever is interested in making a tablet. This is critical and should not be underestimated. HP won’t succeed in getting too much market share on their own, regardless of how big they are. They’ll always be the 4th or 5th platform player (after RIM) if they try doing this alone, and a 4th or 5th place is really not a good place at all.

    If they don’t manage to gain significant market share and mindshare in time before Windows 8 arrives, which will work on multiple partners’ devices, then it’s game over for WebOS. So they have one year to prove themselves to the market. I hope they’ll use it wisely

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    1. Lucian Armasu Thursday, June 9, 2011

      Oh, and convincing RIM to use WebOS instead of QNX for their future phones and tablets would do wonders for HP as well. RIM is probably already questioning whether QNX will stand a chance once it arrives on their phones next year, and HP already knows that RIM thinks WebOS is the better OS because they wanted it, too, and they even copied some UI elements from it.

      HP could potentially convince Samsung (who really wants an alternative to Android), HTC (who was already considering buying WebOS), Motorola (rumored to be working on their own OS), LG (dissapointed in WP7 sales and willing to try out Meego next).

      Actually, all of them must be disappointed with WP7, so if HP is persuasive enough, they could get them on board before WP7 even gets a chance to show itself on Nokia (even though I think that won’t matter).

      You need both phones and tablets in your strategy, because they help transitioning developers from one device to the next – the more devices the merrier.

      And, HP(Palm), please stop with the toy looking Pre’s. I’d rather see you build iPhone clones than yet another Pre looking phone, and I’m sure many people agree with me on this.

      One more thing, you need to release your devices with cutting edge chips. Get the best possible chips as soon as they are available (like say Tegra 4 – yes 4 – from Nvidia, for a summer 2012 release). It’s very important for the consumer market because it will count a lot for early adopters and tech reviewers, who will then spread the word about your products as being “the best”. But most of all, it’s still the ecosystem that should be your main priority.

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  6. Another copy of Ipad priced at $499 and $599. I cannot wait when there will be a competition in price.

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  7. Well now we know WebOS failed ! if HP cannot make it successful how can other companies adopt it…
    Leo failed in SAP, failed in HP !

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