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An artist's render of the Opal/Topaz, HP's upcoming 7- and 9-inch webOS 2.0 tablets.  (Source: Engadget)

Engadget posted a leaked release schedule for the tablets. Note Topaz (the larger device) is not on this list.  (Source: Engadget)
WebOS tablet prototypes have largely been lost in the sea of higher profile competitors

According to Engadget, Hewlett-Packard subsidiary Palm is preparing a pair of tablets to try to create an identity for itself in this hot market.  It was long expected that Hewlett-Packard, the world leader in personal computer shipments, would come up with a legitimate tablet competitor.  

With the acquisition of Palm, the giant seemed to have the intellectual property -- including a proprietary mobile operating system (webOS) -- necessary to mount such a campaign.  But eight months later HP has only delivered one tablet -- the Slate 500 (formerly code-named "Hurricane"), which was an Intel-based tablet that used Windows 7 instead of webOS.

With the arrival of webOS 2.0 (code-named "Mansion"), the speculation about a webOS tablet has yet again peaked, and this time it appears we may have true webOS tablets on our hands.  Renders of a 9-inch tablet code-named "Topaz" and a 7-inch tablet code-named "Opal" hit the web ahead of a special February 9 event, whose tagline is "Think big.  Think small.  Think beyond."

According to the tipster, the unit packs a button-free design, a single front-facing camera, a Micro USB port, and three-speaker surround sound (similar to the upcoming Sony Vaio tablet).  The unit reportedly runs on a 1.2 GHz processor, though it is unknown whether that is an Intel low-voltage Atom SoC, an ARM chip such as a NVIDIA Tegra 2, or refreshed Qualcomm Snapdragon.

Prototype builds will reportedly arrive by June, with the commercial release of Wi-Fi-only, AT&T 3G, and Verizon LTE versions of the Opal slated for September 2011, and on AT&T LTE in July 2012.  There's no word yet when the Topaz will launch, but it will likely follow a similar timeframe.  

Also unknown is the planned production volumes.  The Slate 500 only had an initial production run of 5,000 units and actually faced a demand overrun when HP logged 9,000 orders forcing the company to inform customers of a disappointing backorder.  HP will likely be looking to better keep up with demand and commit to a larger launch this time around, if it hopes to keep up in the tablet market.

HP has plenty to worry about in that regard.  WebOS has yet to grace a production tablet.  Meanwhile, Windows 7 has crept into the tablet space and Android and iOS are waging a full-fledged war for tablet dominance.  Most of the other big players in the tablet space (barring Apple) are backing Android, though Intel claims that more Windows 7 tablets are on their way too.

WebOS 2.0 has the potential to do well in the tablet space if HP commits to it sufficiently.  Like Android and iOS, it was built with a mobile, app-driven, touch-centric world in mind, versus a traditional operating system like Windows 7 that feels somewhat clunky on a tablet, according to some reviewers.

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RE: Popential is there...
By Targon on 1/19/2011 6:27:35 AM , Rating: 3
The Palm Pre Plus when it was launched on Verizon had the iPhone 3GS to compete with. So they were competing with a 600MHz phone, not a 1GHz phone. The quality of the Plus versions was also pretty good, if not flawless.

The reason the Pre Plus(not the original Pre) did not sell well is because Verizon did not demo the phone to customers, pushing only "Droid" phones, and AT&T has been too busy giving Steve Jobs "head" to notice that the majority of customers use devices other than the iPhone. Without sales people even showing the Pre Plus to prospective customers, all a customer would see would be a small(3.2 inch) device that was probably closed in the display case and not turned on, so customers would not even ask about it.

A lack of any advertising that would generate HYPE for the product was also missing, with the only commercials being very subdued and not really generating interest. I have seen more interesting commercials for energy companies on cable news channels than Palm put out.

Think about it, May of 2009, a 600MHz phone with a physical keyboard, 16 gigs of storage, and 512MB of RAM...pretty standard hardware specs for when the Pre Plus launched on AT&T. It may not have been BETTER than the other devices, but at the time, there was no reason it didn't do decently except a lack of advertising.

Without hype, developers do not go out of their way to code for a device, and you end up with a product that only has 5000-6000 apps(which is still decent since there are fairly few duplicates).

The Touchstone, an accessory that was also not hyped and sales people had no clue about, is an induction charger for the Palm phones, so to charge the phone, you don't have to plug a cable into it, you just set it on the charger. Customers would have gone out of their way to buy a Palm phone if they didn't need to plug it in to charge. Again, no advertising, and sales people still have no clue about the strengths of the WebOS devices.

These days, upwards of 90 percent of all Palm Pre and Pre Plus devices can run at 800MHz, with at least 80 percent being able to run comfortably at 1GHz. Even today, 1GHz with 512MB of RAM would be seen as a VERY acceptable phone. And on top of this, WebOS 2.0 is already done and on the Pre 2 which has not been released for any carrier in the USA yet, but will be available for all existing WebOS devices, probably on or shortly after the Feb 9th event.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins

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