New HP WebOS Tablet Hits Oz, But Can It Challenge Android & Apple?

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HP will sell their new WebOS tablet via an exclusive deal with Harvey Norman, selling at $599 for a 16GB version and $699 for a 32 GB model.The 9.7 inch device that runs on a unique operating system called WebOS has been confirmed for availability to Australian consumers from August 15.

The new slate sets out to be “significantly different” from the other ‘me too’ Android devices that have saturated the newfound tablet market with its unique operating system, according to HP’s vice president for the Asia Pacific region, Anthony McMahon.

Unique features found on the new tablet include HP Synergy which populates the tablet with information pulled from a user’s web accounts including Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, etc. It interfaces emails, calendar entries, contacts and images.

Owners will also be able to use a new “Just Type” service which is like a universal search capability that allows one to search emails, tweets, web history and certain words or phrases.

The ‘window’ or ‘page’ layout of opened documents and apps has an almost uncanny resemblance to Research In Motion’s (RIM) offering with the BlackBerry PlayBook, give or take a few features.

The app porting ability for developers also resonates with a similar tune heard from RIM, where HP has touted the ability for developers to simply port applications from other operating systems onto its WebOS. The same hope from RIM has yet to garner much headway against the app stores of Android and Apple.

McMahon describes the interface as a ‘workspace,’ presented more like a typical PC or Mac desktop but in tablet-optimised form that keeps everything simple and the controls intuitive.

The two models are Wi-Fi only rather than 3G, with no current plans for a 3G model any time soon. And removable storage is absent with no SD card port, instead opting for a lone micro-USB connector.

While they can’t simply throw in update for that, HP has been considerate of reviewer criticism from the US release and is set to release the Australian version of the TouchPad with the latest firmware to fix 90 percent of the problems raised, according to McMahon.

Also in the works is AirPlay support, though this isn’t expected for the August 15 release.

The unit also houses a single button ala the iPad, hidden flush against the bezel of the screen. Atop the screen is a 1.3MP camera – yet no rear facing cam.

HP is selling exclusively through Harvey Norman in a bid to separate the TouchPad from the ‘me too’ tablet products available. The TouchPad will also be available online from the Toshiba online store.

HP is currently in talks with its larger enterprise customers in delivering enterprise-specific integration, and will otherwise sell to bigger business through its direct sales staff.

Coming with the launch is an $89 inductive charger that lets users prop their TouchPad onto a stand to charge without any connections.

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