Hewlett-Packard's long-anticipated announcement that it would be releasing a webOS-based tablet produced both interest and disappointment in the IT community. It produced interest because it's clearly aimed at business users as well as consumers (as you'd expect from HP) and disappointment because it won't be available until this summer. At this point, there's no word on the cost of the TouchPad and there's no word on which carrier will handle the 3G versions.
However, the HP TouchPad does bring some new features to a package that's virtually identical in size and appearance to the Apple iPad, which it is clearly competing with. For example, it has a faster processor, it features a plug-free charging stand and docking station, and it has a feature called 'Touchstone' that allows you to transfer addresses and content between the TouchPad and the new version of Pre by simply touching the devices together. According to the TouchPad announcement, you can start reading a blog on the Pre3 and finish it on the TouchPad. However, in what appears to be a colossal oversight, there does not appear to be a provision for Palm's Graffiti handwriting recognition on the TouchPad.
There are also a number of other gaps in the announcement. For example, while the spec sheet makes it clear that the TouchPad will support a wide variety of content including books, games, video and music, it only mentions Wi-Fi as a way to get to them. While it does mention that GPS will be included on the 3G versions of the TouchPad, there is nothing to indicate what sort of 3G it supports, leaving the carrier choice a mystery. There's also no indication that the TouchPad will support any of the 4G networks currently being implemented in the U.S.
Likewise, the announcement points out that webOS is built in to the TouchPad, and that's also good news and bad news. WebOS is a solid operating system with true multitasking. However, it has a very thin app store, and right now there isn't anything out there for the larger screen of the TouchPad. The TouchPad, incidentally, will use webOS 3.0, while the two new phones, the Pre3 and the Veer, will use webOS 2.2.
Other features that HP promises for the TouchPad include better security than the competition, a USB port that may actually be useful for something besides synchronizing and a front-facing camera that can be used for video chats. No word yet on what software it will include for that video chatting, however. Likewise, there's no word on whether there will be a slot for an SD card.
The best you can say about the TouchPad is that it looks encouraging. However, between now and when the device is released, Apple will have released the iPad 2 that may include several of the same features, and Motorola and Verizon Wireless will have released the Android-based Xoom. And of course, there will be a gazillion (approximately) consumer tablets with varying features emerging. As promising as it looks, the TouchPad is going to have to be a very strong product to compete against the rest of the exploding tablet market.