HP, Palm, RIM, Android to Boost iPad Tablet Competition

News Analysis: HP, Android and RIM all plan to introduce tablets in the next six months that could have the features and performance to challenge Apple's iPad.

A Hewlett-Packard tablet device is coming in early 2011. This should be no surprise to anyone since HP already sells a tablet device. But the difference is there will be more than one such device, and one of them will be running Palm's webOS.

It's important to remember that HP has been selling tablet PCs for several years. These machines run Windows, and they've found a strong vertical market where they are really the only choice. In areas such as health care, the HP tablet is the only real device that offers support for the applications the customers need and for the security demanded by regulators. The iPad just isn't in the same league when it comes to industrial-strength computing, but that should be no surprise either, since it was intended to be a consumer gadget.

In the Windows arena, at least, what you'll see is a new, updated version of the HP tablet PC, with a new version of Windows that's more fully optimized for portable use. It's not a consumer device, and isn't intended to be. While you'll be able to buy one of these from HP's online store, you won't be getting an iPad competitor.

But there's another HP tablet coming. As Nick Kolakowski explained a few days ago, the tablet based on the Palm webOS is also set for release in early 2011. Unlike its Windows-based brother, this device will be aimed at the consumer market. But unlike the iPad, it'll come with some enterprise-friendly features carried over from other webOS devices. These features will include complete corporate e-mail integration, for example, and enterprise-grade security. So while it'll be targeted at consumers, a lot of those consumers will be corporate executives.

Does this mean that we can expect to see hype similar to that surrounding the iPad? It's hard to say, but I doubt it. Few CEOs are as adept at spinning hype out of thin air as is Apple's Steve Jobs. Likewise few CEOs are as good at convincing customers to willingly accept design glitches and manufacturing flaws as Apple. So unlike Apple, HP won't be given a free pass on antenna problems or internal glue spots. Their tablet and other webOS devices will have to actually work.

But few companies are in a position to make a tablet work as well as HP. This company has years of experience making tablet devices work in the hum-drum industrial and enterprise marketplace. While their products may not be the sexy, sleek tablets we see from Apple and others in th consumer market, HP's models are in fact, reliable, rugged and very fast. They also have a variety of communications options, including WiFi in its many flavors and a variety of 3G choices. More important, you're not limited to using AT&T as your only choice.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...