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HP launches TouchPad webOS tablet

HP has finally announced its intentions to make good on its purchase of smartphone specialist Palm and bring the tablet fight to Apple with the launch of the webOS-based TouchPad.

While HP's press event, held late last night, included three product announcements, it was the TouchPad that stole the show. While it's an open secret that the company has been working on a tablet that it hopes will topple Apple's iPad, it's only now that we're seeing exactly how the company hopes to do that.

At first glance, the device certainly looks the part. A 9.7-inch capacitive multi-touch display sits flush with the body of the device, and offers clear images with its 1,024x768 resolution and 18-bit colour. Externally, it's also clear to see that HP has decided to compete on features: a 1.3 megapixel front-facing webcam offers video calling, a micro-USB port makes it easier to charge and transfer data on the go, although sadly there's no HDMI video output.

Interestingly, the company has included support for its Touchstone technology - allowing owners of a Touchstone charging mat to power the TouchPad wirelessly, making it significantly more convenient to juice up. While the Touchstone hasn't been a massive success, it's interesting to see support added as standard - making the TouchPad the first tablet to include inductive charging technology.

Internally, HP has gone all-out to impress. Although the storage options, offering 16GB or 32GB of solid-state storage, don't cover the same gamut as Apple's device, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.2GHz dual-core CPU - an ARM-based APQ8060, to be exact - offers significantly more power to the user than Apple's single-core A4 chip.

Connectivity is covered by 3G high-speed mobile broadband on the higher-end model, while the Wi-Fi only version includes 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR and A2DP support. Internal sensors can at least equal the offerings of the iPad, with a light sensor, accelerometer, magnetometer, and gyroscope all present and correct.

On the software front, the TouchPad is powered by webOS 3.0, which brings support for Flash 10.1 in the browser - a significant win over the Flash-free iPad. However, Apple's head start in the tablet market has allowed it to build up an impressive ecosystem of apps and developers - something HP will have to work on if it wants to truly compete in the tablet market.

"Today we’re embarking on a new era of webOS with the goal of linking a wide family of HP products through the best mobile experience available," claimed Jon Rubinstein, senior vice president and general manager at Palm, during the product launch event. "The flexibility of the webOS platform makes it ideal for creating a range of innovative devices that work together to keep you better connected to your world."

That reference to 'working together' is explained by the addition of support for HP's touch-to-share technology, which allows quick and easy content sharing between webOS smartphones and the tablet.

While the HP TouchPad is undeniably impressive, with the iPad 2 on the horizon it remains to be seen if it has what it takes to topple Apple's tablet dominance.

An official UK launch date wasn't part of HP's spiel at the event - and, surprisingly enough, neither was pricing.