HP announces its first webOS slate, the TouchPad

Attendees got more than they expected at HP's press conference today. Not only did the company unleash its long-awaited webOS slate; it also gave folks a glimpse of two upcoming phones, the diminutive Veer and a third revision of the Pre. Phones are all well and good, but I was more excited about the TouchPad.

Now, HP doesn't plan to have this puppy out in stores until the summer, and it has yet to announce pricing. That's probably a smart move considering the iPad 2 should be debuting soon. Still, the TouchPad may well be the most polished iPad competitor yet. Just look at this video of it in action:

HP has crammed some nice hardware into this half-inch-thick slate. The 9.7", 1024x768 touch screen conceals a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 16 to 32GB of flash storage, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, and a 6,300-mAH battery. There's also a 1.3-megapixel camera, micro-USB 2.0 output, an ambient light sensor, an accelerometer, a compass, a gyroscope, a GPS, and built-in support for Touchstone inductive charging. The device runs a specially tailored version of webOS with full-fledged multitasking and Flash video playback capabilities.

Physically, the TouchPad is about the same size as the iPad—7.5" x 9.5" x 0.5"—and it weighs 1.6 lbs, just like the 3G-enabled version of the Apple device.

Mirroring Apple again, HP has arranged to have magazines and video content served up on the device. Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, and People will all be available, as will movies and TV shows through the HP Movie Store. There will be an Amazon Kindle app, too.

Among its other neat features, the TouchPad can act as a companion to a regular webOS phone, allowing you to answer calls or receive SMS messages. HP has implemented an all-in-one messaging application with support for SMS, Google Talk, AIM, and Yahoo Messenger, and the firm says it's working with Quickoffice to integrate software for viewing and editing of Word and Excel documents.

It's just too bad HP opted to brand this thing with the most generic, unimaginative trademark possible. TouchPad, really? HP already has its work cut out if it wants to establish itself amid the iPad and the deluge of Android 3.0 slates; naming its product after a generic input device doesn't seem helpful.

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