When HP bought Palm last year, it wasn't entirely clear what HP were going to do with the struggling smartphone builder. HP's own performance in the smartphone market had been pretty lacklustre over the years, so it did seem that perhaps HP were really interested in getting their hands on Palm's webOS operating system.
Very similar in outward appearance to the iPad, the HP TouchPad has a similar 9.7" 768 x 1024 pixel display, measures 242 x 190 x 14mm and weighs 740 grams, in a fairly smart but unimaginative case design.
The real differences are underneath - the HP TouchPad sports a powerful 1.2GHz dual-core processor which should outpace Apple's current offering. We say current because the next couple of months will probably see the next generation iPad 2 which should raise Apple's game a little. The TouchPad comes in a 3G and non-3G version, the 3G version also has GPS so presumably it can be used as a massive SatNav. There's also a 1.3 megapixel front facing camera for video calls, 16GB or 32GB of internal flash memory and a huge 6300 mAh battery.
But the crucial problem for HP is this - if you're going to produce a device that looks very much like an Apple iPad, but isn't an Apple iPad, then what is your unique selling proposition exactly? Ease of use? The iPad is very difficult to beat, and how many consumers will get the chance to do a side-by-side comparison? Compatibility? Well, webOS phones are hardly common and there are nowhere near the number of applications that are available for Apple's offering. Brand? HP is hardly a sexy brand, they make printers don't they? Price? Perhaps, but we really don't think that the TouchPad will be cheap.
To be fair, HP have the same problems marketing their ex-Palm smartphones as they are likely to have with this tablet. The Palm Pre was a good product that just failed to click with consumers, and HP will need to do better.. especially with the upcoming crop of Android 3.0 tablets such as the Motorola XOOM.
HP say that the TouchPad should be available in the summer, but exact details of launch dates and pricing are not known at present.