MWC: HP’s WebOS-Based TouchPad Tablet – First Look

HP’s webOS tablet looks good for enterprises, and features like Touchstone data transfer are very cool indeed

HP last week revealed its first webOS tablet, the TouchPad, as well as the Pre 3 and Veer smartphones, which the company hopes will help to catapult the operating system created by Palm into the mainstream.

We got a good look at the TouchPad at Mobile World Congress, and it was one of our favourite things at the show, with strong business features, a nice big screen, and good attention to detail – including  nifty features such as “Touchstone” data transfer to phones, and little touches like a row of numbers on its qwerty soft keyboard.

It’s not like an iPad

The 9.7-inch TouchPad has a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, allowing full multi-tasking, and either 16GB or 32GB of built-in memory. Weighing in at 740g, it is roughly equivalent in size and shape to Apple’s iPad. Like the iPad it has a multi-touch display and virtual keyboard, but that is really where the similarities end.

The TouchPad user interface is designed to be a visual representation of the user’s workspace, so rather than a screen covered in icons and apps, it shows activities in the form of “cards”. Each card represents a different application, with windows in that application – for example different browser windows – stacking up on top of each other like a literal pack of cards.

This allows easy navigation between applications, “so you can listen to music, update your status on Facebook, read email and chat on IM at the same time”, said our HP demo-person. The multi-tasking design of the system, the processor power and “tons” of RAM mean it can handle a lot of applications at the same time.

Enterprise appeal

As well as offering the usual rich media applications, such as photo sharing, gaming and music playback, the TouchPad has been built with enterprise users in mind. Users can read and write emails using a full virtual qwerty keyboard – including a number row, which reduces keyboard switching – and view their work and personal inboxes together.

The TouchPad also features a webOS communication suite powered by HP Synergy that incorporates email, instant messaging, contacts, calendar, videos and a front-facing camera for video calling. Integrated messaging combines text messages, picture messages and IM conversations with one person into a single view.

HP is also reportedly working with Quickoffice to include the Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite, which lets users view and edit documents, such as Microsoft Word and Excel. The TouchPad is also compatible with HP’s wireless printing solutions, and comes with VPN support to connect to corporate networks.

Smartphone integration

Undoubtedly, one of the most striking features of this new device is the way that it integrates with webOS smartphones. The TouchPad has built-in HP Touchstone technology, allowing the the tablet to wirelessly share data with other devices, simply by touching the two together.

As demonstrated in the video below, the TouchPad can share web addresses with compatible webOS phones in this way. By touching a webOS smartphone, such as the Pre 3, onto the screen of the tablet, the phone will automatically open the same web page. While the benefits of this are fairly limited in terms of web pages, HP is looking into future uses of this ‘touch-to-share’ function.

“What we’re showing today is how you can share a web page, and we’re giving an example of what you can do with touch-to-share. Now we have a pipe open and we have the technology, you can imagine the possibilities where we can take it from here,” said an HP spokesperson.

Touchstone also enables wireless charging in Palm Pre phones.

Watch a demo of the new device here: