HP is gearing up for what is believed to be its webOS coming out party next month, and if the webOS tablet specifications that have leaked thus far are accurate, Apple may soon have a new and formidable iPad contender to deal with.
Actually, make that two new contenders: HP is developing a 9-inch tablet code-named "Topaz" and a 7-inch tablet code-named "Opal," both of which will have the same 1024 x 768 screen resolution as the iPad, according to a Tuesday report from Engadget, which quoted an anonymous source familiar with the matter.
Both tablets include a front-facing camera, micro USB port and three speakers and are equipped with a button-free user interface. HP may begin shipping the 9-inch "Topaz" tablet in March, with shipments of the 7-inch "Opal" coming in the June timeframe, according to Engadget.
Other rumored features of HP's webOS tablets include cloud-based storage and the ability to transmit files between a webOS tablet and smartphone simply by tapping the two devices together. These features have caught the attention of financial analyst firm Raymond James & Associates, which believes they could give HP some all-important separation from the pack in the tablet market.
"We believe that Hewlett-Packard’s tablets will offer unique features that are truly differentiating from competitors. The most notable features include cloud-based storage and wireless transfer of content between webOS devices," analysts from Raymond James & Associates said in a Wednesday research note.
HP has previously said cloud-based storage would be a major part of its webOS plans. "Storage is going to be in the cloud, and content is going be in the cloud. Everything with a digital heartbeat is going to be connected, and the way we're going to connect it all together is webOS," Stephen DeWitt, senior vice president and general manager of HP's Personal Systems Group, Americas, said in October at an industry event in San Francisco.
In addition to smartphone technology and webOS, the Palm acquisition brought HP a sizable base of developers and applications, along with a platform for delivering cloud-based services, which is one reason why HP CEO Leo Apotheker is reportedly "jazzed" about the potential of webOS.
Apple may have a sizable head start with the iPad, but HP's channel partners expect the company's deep channel expertise to pay off when it comes to driving webOS tablets into vertical markets.
John Convery, executive vice president of vendor relations and marketing for Denali Advanced Integration, a Redmond, Wash.-based solution provider, says HP reached out early on to assist health-care customers with in pre-planning, roadmap development, and pre-production demo units.
"The behind the scenes planning and execution from HP has been outstanding. They certainly assembled the resources and their industry power to scale," Convery said.
For now, all we can do is wait to see what comes out of HP's Feb. 9 webOS event in San Francisco, which features the cryptic, Yoda-like tagline, "Think Big, Think Small, Think Beyond".