Can HP's webOS and TouchPad slow down the iPad?

Android tablets and RIM's PlayBook haven't put much of a dent in Apple's tablet success -- yet

More than a year after its introduction, Apple's iPad continues to dominate a tablet market that has grown crowded with a variety of would-be rivals. Most of these are Android tablets like Samsung's Galaxy Tab and Motorola's Xoom. (The Xoom became the launch vehicle for the tablet-optimized version of Android, better known as Honeycomb.)

HP TouchPad
The new HP TouchPad is due to arrive July 1. Prices start at $499.

The next challenger prepping to go toe-to-toe with the iPad is HP's TouchPad, which was announced and demoed in February; it is expected to ship July 1 -- along with a significant update to the webOS mobile operating system originally developed by Palm.

WebOS didn't see much out-of-the-gate success -- blame the limited launch with Sprint and an ad campaign that many found bizarre, including commercials dubbed "Reincarnation," "Go With the Flow" and "Read my Mind" -- and the platform languished a bit before HP bought Palm last year.

Initially, HP was quiet about its webOS plans, indicating only that it would bring webOS technology to other products such as its printers. (Palm Pre devices also got the operating system.) Then in February, a TouchPad announcement indicated that HP has plans for webOS that go far beyond printers and a single smartphone. HP has developed two new webOS handsets: the diminutive Veer, which launched earlier this year on AT&T, and the Pre3. More important, HP has developed a tablet version of webOS for the TouchPad and plans to bring webOS to PCs as an alternative to Windows.

All of which raises the question: Can webOS and the TouchPad succeed where others have failed in competing with Apple's iOS and the iPad? Going beyond the iPad, can the Veer and Pre3 gain a significant share of the smartphone market? And is webOS viable as an alternative to iOS, Android or BlackBerry handsets?

What webOS brings

Despite its small market share, webOS 2.x has a lot of innovative features.

WebOS doesn't include a home screen in the same sense as iOS, Android and the BlackBerry operating system. Instead, it includes a launcher with common applications and a pop-up view of all installed apps.

The primary display (when you're not using a particular application) is a view of app thumbnails known as cards that can be easily cycled through and selected. Screens from individual apps can be displayed as individual cards. In addition to simply displaying every active app or screen, webOS lets you stack cards together in the same way you'd stack pieces of paper together on your desk.

This approach is extremely intuitive, letting you immediately switch between commonly used apps and allowing you to organize cards for specific tasks that you want to handle together, such as emails and/or texts. It also offers much of the same functionality as Android widgets or the live previews of Honeycomb's home screen. By doing away with the home screen and focusing on apps and tasks, webOS focuses more on getting things done than on system navigation. (Story continues on next page)

More tablet info

The table below shows the most recently announced tablets as reported by Computerworld. Click a tablet's name in the leftmost column to read a news story or review with more information about the device, or view a larger table with more details about each product.

Table created by Sharon Machlis using Zoho Creator.

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