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HP's TouchPad Launches July 1 For $499

HP's webOS has not been a blazing success story on smartphones. Will the TouchPad tablet reverse that trend?
Slideshow: HP Tablet Announced
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Slideshow: HP Tablet Announced
HP on Thursday finally announced availability of its TouchPad tablet. In the U.S., it will be in stores starting July 1. It will be available in the U.K., Ireland, France, and Germany a few days later, and in Canada by mid-July. HP noted that other markets, such as Australia, Hong Kong, Italy, New Zealand, Singapore, and Spain, won't have access to the TouchPad until later this year.

As for pricing, HP isn't straying from the baselines established by Apple. The 16-GB TouchPad will cost $499.99 and the 32-GB TouchPad will cost $599.99. HP didn't announce or make note of a 64-GB version.

The TouchPad initially will be available only with Wi-Fi on board, but HP indicated that a version that works with AT&T's network will be available later this year. It didn't provide specifics on which cellular data technology that model will support.

"What makes HP TouchPad a compelling alternative to competing products is webOS," said HP's Jon Rubinstein, in a statement. "The platform's unmatched features and flexibility will continue to differentiate HP products from the rest of the market for both personal and professional use. This is only the beginning of what HP's scale can do with webOS."

Well, that remains to be seen. HP's webOS has been far from a blazing success story on smartphones. Its smartphone market share is so low it is often lumped into the "other" category. It has a lot of ground to cover with a handful of Android tablets, the RIM PlayBook, and Apple iPad 2 already hogging the market.

The biggest hurdle the TouchPad will have to overcome is applications. The webOS App Market has a paltry 6,000 applications in it, and it is unclear if they'll even work with the TouchPad. The lack of applications has been a knee-capper for the Motorola Xoom and LG G-Slate, which run Android 3.0 Honeycomb. A similar story applies to RIM's recently-launched PlayBook. Unfortunately for all tablets, Apple's iPad has more than 90,000 applications optimized for it, and it can run the 200,000+ iPhone apps as well.

The TouchPad has a 9.7-inch display with 1024 x 768-pixel resolution (just like the iPad). At 1.6 pounds, it is a bit more than the iPad 2's 1.33 pounds. The dimensions and bezel are also similar. Clearly, Apple's tablet was the inspiration for the TouchPad.

Other features include a 1.3 megapixel camera, native social networking support, 1.2-GHz, dual-core SnapDragon processor, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and GPS. It will run webOS 3.0, which HP says has been heavily updated when compared to prior versions of the platform. HP has done a few innovative things, such as allow all webOS devices to easily and seamlessly speak to one another and transfer content. Based on its Touchstone technology, webOS devices--such as the TouchPad and Pre 3--can sync and share things such as Web pages, media, documents, and so on.

HP has high hopes for the TouchPad and webOS. One of HP's European executives noted last month, "In the PC world, with fewer ways of differentiating HP's products from our competitors, we became number one. In the tablet world we're going to become better than number one. We call it number one plus."

It also recently hinted that it might license webOS to other OEMs.

According to HP, the TouchPad will have a number of accessories available at launch, including the Touchstone Charging Dock, the TouchPad Wireless Keyboard, and the TouchPad Case. They will be will be sold separately; prices weren't disclosed.

Where will it be available? It will be sold by U.S. retailers: Best Buy, Staples, Office Depot, Walmart, Sam's Club, OfficeMax, Amazon.com, Fry's, Microcenter, and HP's online stores. It can be pre-ordered starting June 19, though HP didn't specify which retailers are accepting pre-orders.

Employees have more ways to communicate than ever, but until the mishmash of tools gets integrated, productivity will suffer. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek: A buyer's guide to enterprise social networking. Download it now. (Free registration required.)