The expectation that Hewlett-Packard will finally introduce a WebOS-running tablet (or tablets) at its planned Feb. 9 event was all but confirmed by Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP's Personal Systems Group, during a recent television interview.
In the segment aired, Jan. 7 from the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, CNBC's Maria Bartiromo asked Bradley, "Where's your tablet? You said you're preparing one to run WebOS. When will this device debut?" To which Bradley responded that HP has a "set of public announcements" planned for its Feb. 9 event, at which it will speak "broadly about the future of WeboS and the breadth of products that [the OS] will enable."
After that, Bartiromo suggested that the tablets being exhibited at CES-which Bradley, later in the interview, said there are 96 of in all - seem to be "playing catch-up" to the Apple iPad. How, she asks Bradley, will HP compete against the iPad and say that HP's tablet is better?
"You and I will talk about that on the 9th," Bradley said with a grin, adding that the enormous amount of tablet competition is essentially why HP has put the February event together.
What HP wants to "focus on is the connected experience that we'll create, not just exhibiting at the show, which is frankly the reason ... we chose to do it ourselves in San Francisco, where people can really focus on the quality of the product, the quality of the experience, that we've created," he said.
On Jan. 5, HP invited members of the press to a WebOS event, with invitations that coyly read: "Think big. Think small. Think beyond." The invites prompted speculation that HP might release tablets in different sizes, or perhaps a tablet and a new smartphone. In the CNBC interview, Bradley offered enough to likely keep the rumor mills turning.Offering a quick explanation of WebOS, at Bartiromo's prompting, Bradley said, "It's the first truly Web-based operating system that there is, differentiated from anything on the market today. ... It's the only true multitasking operating system, where you actually can have 20 different applications open simultaneously. So as we think about how that enables everything from smartphones tablets to PCs to potentially other large-screen devices" - and here he makes a wide gesture with his hands, suggesting the size of perhaps a flat-screen television - "we see an enormous opportunity for both ourselves and our customers to get the best Web experience, the best content experience, that they can."Bradley additionally called WebOS the "strategic reason" that HP purchased Palm in July 2010, and roughly since that time there's been talk of its releasing a tablet with the OS but no details on a date.In late 2010, Jon Rubinstein, the former CEO of Palm and now the man in charge of the Palm brand under Bradley, offered the loose timeframe of "early 2011." Shortly afterward, BMO Capital Markets analyst Keith Bachman narrowed down the date, during a call with investors Dec. 13, to March. Having just returned from a trip around Asia to visit with a number of manufacturers, many of which had tablets in the works, Bachman added, "It will be a very crowded market in 2011."Also arriving fashionably late to the tablet party are, among others, Research In Motion, with its delayed PlayBook, and Sony, which has nonetheless announced its hope to be the No. 2 tablet maker behind Apple by 2012.Analyst Ken Hyers with Technology Business Research has told eWEEK, however, that by then, Samsung, maker of the popular Galaxy Tab, and not Apple may be the No. 1 tablet maker - and that Sony will have a hard time besting either one.