Clearly the one single item that HP focused on (and also wanted us to) was the HP TouchPad tablet. This marks HP/webOS' entry into what is going to be one of the most competitive sectors of 2011, the tablets. Based on my initial impressions and assuming HP makes good use of the time they have till they launch the device in summer, the TouchPad is possibly one of the strongest entrants. Let's get down to the details.

TouchPad is actually going to be a family of webOS tablet devices. Although no other tablet devices were specifically announced, HP did confirm that variations of the current TouchPad (with 3G/4G) and other additions to the TouchPad family will launch sometime in the future. So although the current TouchPad itself is positioned squarely at the Apple iPad, there is no ruling out the possibility that smaller (and possibly larger) tablets will also face some heat from webOS powered devices.

The TouchPad announced today actually runs webOS version 3.0. However, HP did not disclose any further details about 3.0 or what features presented today would be 3.0-only. The focus was the TouchPad itself, which is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8x60 SoC which consists of a dual-core Scorpion processor humming along at 1.2Ghz. The TouchPad is the first device to make use of Qualcomm's new 8x60 series of Snapdragon SoC's. You can find more details about this SoC on this page but to summarize, this is a 45nm SoC with dual-cores running at 1.2GHz , sharing 512KB of L2 cache and has the new Adreno 220 GPU. The rated power at maximum load for this SoC is about 1.2W and its memory interface supports LP DDR2. As such, the TouchPad comes with 1GB (double that of the Pre 2, and 4 times as much as the iPad) worth of RAM.

What is not clear though is although the TouchPad announced today was WiFi-only, since the SoC does support a cellular baseband (HSPA and/or EV-DO depending on the particular SoC version), will HP expose this functionality via a firmware upgrade (assuming antennas are built-in) or will they release a new SKU with cellular functionality? Either way, the TouchPad will be available in 16GB and 32GB versions and all versions sport 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1+ radios along with a gyroscope, accelerometer and compass. All of this will be packed into a chassis about 13.7mm thick and weighing 1.6 pounds.

Update: Qualcomm has confirmed today that the Snapdragon in the TouchPad is an applications-only SoC without baseband support. Dubbed the APQ8060 (instead of the MSM/QSD prefix for its baseband-equipped SoC's), this gives a much clearer understanding of why the current TouchPad is and will be WiFi only. 


(Left) Amazon Kindle app announcement, (Right) Video chat demo

Now, for features of the TouchPad that are visible, it sports a 9.7-inch 1024x768 display (matching the iPad and being bested by the Xoom in terms of pixel density), although it is not clear whether the TouchPad uses an IPS panel. Atop the display is a 1.3MP front-facing camera that can be used for video calls. Unfortunately the TouchPad does not have a rear-facing camera. The TouchPad also houses stereo speakers (with Beats Audio technology...something that was heavily pushed today). Without actually using the device it is difficult to quantify the quality of any of the above, but from the in-person demos, the screen does have pretty good vieweing angles.


(Top left) Flash HD demo, (Top Right) Armageddon Squadron 2
(Bottom left) Resizeable on-screen keyboard, (Bottom right) Touch-to-Share feature demo

Unlike the Pre 3 that was tagged as a 'professional' device, HP did demo non-professional use cases on the TouchPad by playing an HD Flash video (Kung-Fu Panda), an OpenGL game (Armageddon Squadron 2) and a bunch of Time magazine applications which looked quite impressive. The Flash video played perfectly fine with no skipping or stuttering of any sort. In addition, the game demo was impressive in terms of both the fidelity and performance. It was certainly more impressive than the demos we saw on the Motorola Xoom at the Android 3.0 event.

HP also demonstrated how the TouchPad plays very well with the Pre 3 via the Touch-to-Share feature. Pair the 2 devices via a single button press and from then on, simply 'tap' the Pre 3 onto the TouchPad and the content you were browsing on the tablet now gets transferred to your phone. As shown in the demo, if you were browsing a particular website or reading a particular email on the tablet and you have to rush out without the tablet, just tap the Pre 3 onto the TouchPad and the exact same content is now displayed on the phone. Although I can think of an iOS app that does something along these lines, the functionality and integration shown here is much more straightforward and useful.

And integration is exactly what HP is pushing for with the TouchPad, across the webOS eco-system. Touch-to-Share, wireless printing to almost any HP wireless network printer, deep integration with webservices, all point to how webOS thrives off of connectivity. HP also showed off the improvements made to the email client (multi-select delete...finally!) and how messages received on your Pre 3 can be read and replied-to from the TouchPad.

Given how all the demos on the TouchPad involved working efficiently with multiple apps running in the background, the fact that it is powered by a dual-core CPU should lend itself to such use-cases very well. Since the TouchPad was in fact running a different version of webOS, it is clear that multiple thread scheduling and dispatch capabilities are built into webOS; it's just that HP doesn't feel it is required outside the tablet-space right now (which may also explain why the Veer/Pre 3 have single-core CPUs).


(Left) a case that doubles as a stand (Right) and a stand that doubles as a charger.

Finally, HP announced that they have collaborated with Amazon and Skype to bring both the Kindle reader and Skype apps to the TouchPad. In addition, they also anounced a bunch of accessories for the TouchPad, including a slick-looking Touchstone charger that doubles as a stand.

Introduction What size do you want your webOS?
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  • anada - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    I like WebOS but the opensourceness of the thing is questionable.

    They link to a few patches for a-now-outdated version of WebOS and that does not even include the Linux kernel.

    While it looks technically very good, I've troubles seeing a future vs Android (which is FULLY open source) or iOS (which open sourced parts are MUCH larger)

    I'm not sure if closed OSes have a large chance today, where you have to rely heavily on the distributor (HP) for everything.

    As proof, the promised WebOS 2 won't be ported to the pre afterall. If it were open source, it'd be running there ages ago.
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Presumably most tech-savvy consumers already have a smartphone. What webOS and other smarthphone OS makers should be targeting is the much larger rest of the population, those still using dumbphones and maybe not even a cellphone, in order to grow the smartphone market. I'm not sure the ability to look at, contribute, compile, and install your own OS source code is a major selling feature for most people. Reply
  • Spivonious - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    I don't have a cell phone at all. I really don't see the point of a smartphone. If I need to call someone, I'm usually at home or at work. If I'm somewhere else, I probably don't want to be contacted. I have an MP3 player for music. I have a very short commute, so there's no time for videos, games, or books. I have a laptop at home and a desktop at work. If I'm out somewhere, I really don't need to have web access at all times.

    I think Apple surprised everyone when they successfully marketed the concept of a smartphone to consumers.
    Reply
  • kingpotnoodle - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    Apple didn't sell "smartphone" to users, Apple (in a very Apple-y way) heavily marketed a device which converged all your pocket objects (iPod, phone, games) into one shiny device that made you cool and trendy, with simple idiot proof apps rather than fiddly small screened slow internets. They polished the idea and sold it as a lifestyle object in a way that appealed to the masses, not just geeks.

    Still most people who own a smart phone do very little that's actually "smart" with it, they just listen to music, call/text, use a few apps and some social networking. I see old people who can barely operate a door carrying them... just bought one cos the salesmen told them it was good.

    Smartphones owners != Smartphone feature users.
    Reply
  • halcyon - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    I'd like to see a thriving multi-ecosystem in the mobile and tablet market, but I don't see it very likely.

    Apple is skimming of the easy-to-use high-end with iOS. Tech for the rest of us. Overpriced perhaps to some, but it works and sells well.

    Android is grabbing all tech-heads, much of devs and lots of mid-market and even the low-end.

    Win7 is not ready for tablet.

    Where does that leave HP as the only manufacturer fighting against Android with hordes of manufacturers?

    In a pinch.

    They have no consumer brand (esp. outside US). They are not a great marketing company. WebOS is very limited as an ecosystem and highly web centric.

    Yes, it has a lot of features and innovations going for it, but so did OS9 and still Windows dominated.

    I have no positive view for WebOS. Within 2-3 years HP will have buried it pretty much or sold it off to be integrated somehow to somebody's other platfrom.

    A shame, but alone they have no chance.
    Reply
  • Dribble - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    It all sounds very nice but you know it's going nowhere. Google are going to win in the end, with apple keeping their customary % of the high end. Google are like the borg - you will be assimilated or destroyed. Reply
  • cmdrdredd - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Actually, you won't and cannot beat Apple in the mobile space. It will never happen. You can make a dent, but Apple is too chic at the moment. What I mean is, iPhone is the first thing most people think of when I bring out my Android phone. They don't realize that the iPhone is not the only device that does what it does. Same for the iPad, plus the itunes library and app store are too vast. Google can only be second best here. Reply
  • argosreality - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    I'm sure Gm and Ford said the same thing about the vehicle market. Oops, wait... Reply
  • Aloonatic - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    I am not so sure that you are right, in the mobile space as a whole.

    Apple have done a great job establishing and growing the market. Sucking people in, but that was during the high spending, early adopter phase. However, now, the deals/tariffs that go along with their devices are just way too expensive for many people, but more people want in, so Google are taking up their business.

    Apple will always have a good position in the high end smart phone market, but we are seeing a mid/lower end, cheaper market appear, with devices such as the HTC Wildfire. Apple aren't interested in cheap-skates who won't or can't afford to buy apps and stuff though, so it's no skin off of Apple's nose, I'm sure.

    Therefore, I believe that, just as in almost every other mass consumer markets, the number of people in the mid/low end will be far far greater than the high end. So Apple wont dominate the whole market forever, but I doubt that that matters to them, in the end. They will still have a big stake in the most lucrative, high-end market ,which is just how they like it :o)
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    I'm no longer sure about the high-end thing.

    Apple have such volume, that they can make money at low price points. They can get the best components&assembly deals, amortize research, get lots of free press... So they can be profitable in the low-end. Neither the iPhone, iPad nor iPod are horrendously expensive compared to competing products.

    And above all, there's the whole lock-in +network effect thing. Once you start buying things from iTunes, it starts to make sense buying lots of iTunes hardware, then more content, then more hardware...

    I'm sure, as long as it won't devalue their brand, Apple will be thrilled to have "starter" (gateway ?) products to suck more customers in.
    Reply

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