Hewlett-Packard’s (s hpq) TouchPad tablet launches July 1 using the same pricing scheme as Apple’s iPad (s aapl). 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 (s rimm), and Android (s goog), 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:
@rossrubin But for most consumers the thought process is "Why get that HP thingy when I can get an iPad for the same price?"
— Darren Humphries (@DarrenHumphries) June 9, 2011