HP TouchPad
It's not the pretty tablet, but HP's new design at least inserts it in the market

Hewlett-Packard Company (HPQ) faced an interesting dilemma when it purchased Palm, Inc.  The smartphone maker exclusively used its proprietary operating system, webOS, while HP came from a Windows background.  With the tablet market exploding, the question was which option to pick -- webOS or Windows 7.

Ultimately HP chose to try both.  The approach thus far hasn't worked out so great – the Windows 7-powered HP Slate has seen limited sales.  But HP is hoping its fortunes will change, now that its first webOS tablet has arrived.

I. Hardware

The HP TouchPad packs a Qualcomm Inc.'s (QCOM) Snapdragon APQ8060 clocked at 1.2GHz and powered by dual Scorpion cores (ARMv7).  This is the first of Qualcomm's third generation CPUs to be found in the wild.  In that regard, the chip represents the successor to second generation Qualcomm chips found in tablets like the Acer Inc. (TPE:2353Iconia.  The key difference is that the clock speed has been bumped and the Adreno GPU has been substantially improved.

The company's spec page doesn't mention memory, but reportedly the design will pack 1 GB of DDR2, on par with Android designs, and better than the iPad 2.  The battery though is pretty small -- a mere 6,300 mAh.  By contrast, the impending Galaxy Tab 10.1" from South Korean gadget maker Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (SEO:005930) packs a 7,000 mAh battery.

The one saving grace in terms of battery life is that the TouchPad has a smaller screen -- 9.7 inches (1024x768 pixels) versus the titular screens size of the Galaxy Tab 10.1" (1200x800 pixels).

The tablet lacks a rear camera, putting it a step behind the iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1".  However, how much customers really use a tablet's rear camera is debatable.

II. Software

The tablet is powered by webOS 3.0 "Mansion".  The new OS offers some slick features.  For example you can bump your webOS smart phone into the tablet to transfer web pages or more -- a rather unique idea that none of the competition has implemented yet.
Overall the OS is quite polished with slick multi-tasking and solid core apps.  In that regard it's definitely on par with Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iOS and Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android Honeycomb OS.

App-wise the tablet comes up a bit short.  In December 2010, the webOS App Catalog hit 5,000 apps -- meanwhile Android has around 250,000 apps, and Apple has around 350,000 apps.  While it's easy to argue that the number of high quality apps in Android or iOS is far lower, remember the same also applies to webOS.  In other words, expect the hits to be there, but if you're constantly craving new games and connective experiences, you may find webOS's offerings a bit unsatisfying.

III. Availability

The TouchPad "launches" June 19 in the U.S., and ships by July 1 [press release].  Customers in the UK, Ireland, France, and Germany will receive their orders a few days later.  Australia, Hong Kong, Italy, New Zealand, Singapore, and Spain get the tablet "later this year."

Like the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and iPad 2, the 16 GB version of the TouchPad retails for $499 USD, while the 32 GB retails for $599.  The company has not announced a 3G version of the tablet, but we can expect one to land sometime in the near future.  HP says AT&T, Inc (T) will be its likely carrier in the U.S.

IV. Outlook

Really, the TouchPad brings a couple unique features to the table, like tap-transfer.  But at the end of the day, it's hard to use these perks to justify a purchase given the shortcomings.  The iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1" both offer you more for you money -- more apps, a bigger screen, and likely better battery life.

And many will argue the best deal of all is ASUSTEK Computer Inc.'s (TPE:2357Eee Pad Transformer, which packs a 10.1" screen, dual core CPU, 16 GB of flash, a long battery life, and a rear camera, all for a mere $400 USD.

It's far too early to count Palm out, and honestly the TouchPad is pretty impressive in terms of hardware and software.  But at the end of the day, it likely will only see strong appeal among the limited numbers of webOS fans, as there's far better Android and iOS tablets on the market.

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