HP's WebOS-based Hurricane tablet coming, report says

Will Hewlett Packard dump its Windows 7-based tablet prototype in favor of a one-panel slate running Palm's WebOS?

More rumors have surfaced suggesting that Hewlett Packard is dumping its Windows 7-based tablet prototype in favor of a one-panel slate running Palm's WebOS. The new WebOS tablet, code-named Hurricane, would be released by late summer or early fall, an anonymous source inside HP reportedly told Examiner.com. There's no word on pricing or specs for the new device.

This is the second rumor stating that HP is dumping its Windows 7 tablet. In late April, TechCrunch reported that HP had canceled its Windows 7 tablet plans just one day after the world's largest computer manufacturer acquired Palm for $1.2 billion. HP's Windows 7 tablet prototype was first introduced in January by Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer during the Consumer Electronics Show, and was scheduled for release in late 2010.

If the rumors are true, a WebOS-based tablet could be an interesting and more able competitor against Apple's iPad than a Windows 7 device. Like the iPhone OS, Palm's WebOS was designed as a multitouch operating system, making it more attractive to smartphone developers. Windows 7, despite its multitouch component, is meant primarily for desktop and laptop computers relying on mouse and keyboard inputs.

One problem that HP must solve, however, is the "application gap" between Apple's iPad and the WebOS platform. Palm already has some of the big-name application developers contributing to the WebOS platform, including gamemakers like Electronic Arts; applications for social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn; and productivity apps such as Evernote. But Palm's catalog doesn't come close to the almost 200,000 applications in Apple's catalog, almost all of which can be used on the iPad. Granted, many of those applications were originally designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch, but Apple's iPad-specific app catalog is likely to expand since the iPad has proved so popular. A month after the iPad first launched, Apple announced it had sold more than one million iPads sold in the U.S. alone and the device's international launch is scheduled for late May.

For HP to compete with the iPad, the company must attract more developers to create more programs for the WebOS platform, as well as convince users to give a WebOS-based tablet a try. Palm has the basic infrastructure in place for a competitive WebOS-based tablet, and if HP is in fact planning a WebOS tablet, it will be interesting to see how its device fares against Apple's iPad.

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
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