HP has today announced that its TouchPad tablet will be launched in Australia on 15 August, and will start at $599 — slightly more expensive than Apple's iPad 2.
The HP TouchPad tablet has a 9.7in touchscreen with the same 1024x768 screen resolution as the iPad 2, but runs the Palm-developed webOS operating system. HP acquired struggling Palm for US$1.2 billion in July 2010, and the TouchPad tablet is the first of a suite of webOS products promised by the company.
The webOS platform has unmatched features and flexibility that works like nothing else," said Anthony McMahon, vice president of HP webOS, Asia Pacific and Japan. "We believe the HP TouchPad is very different to what’s available in the market today."
The HP TouchPad comes in 16GB and 32GB models and will sell for $599 and $699, respectively, making it slightly more expensive than the 16GB Wi-Fi-only iPad 2. Both models of the TouchPad are Wi-Fi-only devices and they will be sold through retailer Harvey Norman. A Wi-Fi + 3G version of the TouchPad is set to launch in the US later in the year, but HP said it was "not in a position to talk about dates, but it would make sense at some point to introduce that device".
HP is slating the TouchPad's webOS operating system as a key differentiator in a crowded tablet market. It claims the TouchPad's "cards" system, a unique way of swiping through multiple open applications, makes it easy for users to multitask. Other webOS-specific features of the HP TouchPad include a pop-up notification system, built-in Skype support, and HP Synergy, which groups contacts and cloud based services from multiple sources in single applications. The HP TouchPad tablet also handles wireless printing and will synchronise with Google Docs, QuickOffice, Dropbox and Box.net.
The HP TouchPad is powered by a dual core 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor, and has a front facing 1.3-megapixel camera for video recording, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and stereo speakers, but no rear camera.
The HP TouchPad also has "touch-to-share" technology, which enables users to share content, read text messages and even answer phone calls from a compatible HP smartphone by simply tapping the devices together. However, HP has no plans or specific dates as to when it will launch the Pre 3 and the Veer smartphones in Australia. The company will also sell an inductive "Touchstone" charger and stand for $89, which will charge the tablet wirelessly.
The HP TouchPad was first announced in February, and launched in the US on 1 July. At the time of its initial announcement, HP revealed that it would be "first be focussing on markets where webOS is currently available." However, it confirmed in June that the first webOS tablet would eventually be available in Australia.
The HP TouchPad received largely unfavourable reviews upon its launch in the US. Although most reviews positively commented on its user interface, the TouchPad was widely criticised for its bulky design, lack of third-party apps and sluggish performance. HP says it expects many of these issues to be corrected with the latest software update, which will come standard on Australian units.