HP is going to start out releasing a version of the TouchPad that depends entirely on Wi-Fi. I predict this will be the best-selling one — the Wi-Fi-only iPad is far and away the most popular version of that tablet.
This device won’t be a phone, but it will be able to wirelessly inter-operate with a nearby webOS-based smartphone over Bluetooth. This will let users see their incoming text messages on their tablet if they want, and even open a webpage displayed on a smartphone on the TouchPad’s larger screen just by tapping the two devices together.
Again, this tablet isn’t going to be a phone, but it will come with a front-facing camera and support for making video calls. HP won’t say that Skype is going to be bundled with this tablet, but this seems to be because these two companies haven’t completely finalized their business arrangement. I saw a brief demo of a TouchPad calling an HP Pre 3, but no more, so it’s a bit early to say too much about this.
Web browsing is an important feature for any tablet, and the webOS comes with one of the best mobile browsers available. It’s just about as capable as the one on your average desktop.
This will include full support for Adobe Flash, including Flash-based navigation and video. HP avoided showing off its tablet running an Flash-based games, so clearly there’s room for improvement before the device is launched.
HP is significantly improving the email app in this upcoming version of the webOS to take advantage of the larger screen on this tablet. Users will be able to have a single message fill the display, or drag in a list of all the folders available in the current email account, or drag in a third list of all the email accounts the device can connect to.
One of the features HP likes to highlight in the webOS is Synergy, a system that pulls in information from a variety of online sources and displays it together in an organized way.
This means that the address book entries you have stored in Microsoft Exchange, Google, and Facebook can all be in one place on your tablet. They aren’t all merged together, they just look like they are.
The same is true of your various online calendars. If you have work and personal calendars, they can be displayed together without actually combining them.
When you want to get work done on the TouchPad, you can pull up a new tablet version of Quickoffice, which will support Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. This third-party is apparently still in development, as I didn’t see a demo of it.
Naturally, it hasn’t escaped HP that users are going to want to watch movies on this tablet and listen to their favorite songs — the webOS includes a capable music and video player.
Amazon is making a version of the Kindle eBook reader for this tablet, and I’d be surprised if its rivals didn’t do the same.
HP showed off the TouchPad playing a 3D game, and performance was actually quite good. But this raises an important question: HP can make a tablet that’s useful, but it’s going to be up to third-party developers to make it fun. Only time will tell if game developers are going to support this product, as well as companies that offer popular services like streaming music and video.
I’ve already mentioned that the HP TouchPad is going to come with a 1.2-megapixel camera for video conferencing, but it’s also worth bringing up that this will be the tablet’s only camera — there’s not going to be a rear-facing one.
Naturally, it’s much too early to say anything conclusive about this tablet’s battery life, but potential buyers should be glad to hear that it is going to include a 6300-mAh battery. That should give it juice enough for you to go a long time.
With the Apple iPad already a huge success and the large number of Android OS-based tablets that are about to hit the market, HP needed to make its webOS-based tablet very, very good if it hopes to have any chance of success — and that’s just what they did.
The HP TouchPad will include all the features it needs to be taken seriously, from Adobe Flash to video conferencing. Its operating system is powerful and easy to use, and the design of the device itself is great.
More importantly, this product is going to have the backing of HP, the biggest PC maker in the world.
Still, support from third-party developers is going to be critical, and this won’t be easy to get with so much attention going to the iOS and Android OS.
The HP TouchPad is scheduled to hit store shelves this summer. The price is unknown at this time, and is open to much speculation.
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