Hewlett-Packard will begin rolling out the WiFi-only version of its TouchPad tablet July 1, according to the company.
In the United States, HP will offer the 16GB version of the device for $499.99, and the 32GB for $599.99. The company plans on releasing what it calls a "connected" version of the TouchPad, which presumably means 3G capability, at an undefined date later this summer.
The 9.7-inch TouchPad relies on a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, faster than a significant portion of the tablets already on the market. Since unveiling the tablet in February, HP has been pushing it as an all-in-one device, equally capable of running apps and games, displaying e-books and periodicals, and Web-cruising with Adobe Flash and HTML5 support. The TouchPad runs the webOS operating system, which HP acquired along with Palm in 2010.
"What makes HP TouchPad a compelling alternative to competing products is webOS," Jon Rubinstein, senior vice president and general manager of HP's Palm Global Business Unit. "The platform's unmatched features and flexibility will continue to differentiate HP products from the rest of the market for both personal and professional use. This is only the beginning of what HP's scale can do with webOS."
The TouchPad faces substantial competition on a number of fronts. In addition to Apple's iPad franchise, which currently occupies the lion's share of the consumer tablet market, a variety of manufacturers continue to push Android-equipped tablets. Research In Motion is also promoting its BlackBerry-branded PlayBook tablet, which uses a QNX-based proprietary operating system, and Microsoft will likely release tablets running the next version of Windows sometime in 2012. In other words, HP is entering a very crowded arena against some of the biggest names in tech.
Nonetheless, the manufacturer has ambitious plans for webOS. In addition to the TouchPad and a revived Palm smartphone line, the company plans to load the operating system onto its desktops and laptops, and eventually license it to other manufacturers.
"I happen to believe that webOS is a uniquely outstanding operating system," HP CEO Leo Apotheker told an audience at AllThingsD's D9 conference in San Francisco, according to a June 2 Reuters report. "It's not correct to believe that it should only be on HP devices."
HP's plans could offer substantial benefits for the company, according to some analysts. "webOS is HP's Trojan horse to marry cloud, mobile and social," Ray Wang, principal analyst of Constellation Research, wrote in an email to eWEEK. "It's a smart move in leveraging an underused asset."
The first PCs dual-loaded with webOS will apparently begin shipping in 2012.