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HP's TouchPad could emerge as viable iPad competitor

Agam Shah, IDG News Service | May 19, 2011
HP's TouchPad could emerge as a viable competitor to Apple's iPad tablet in a burgeoning market filled with disappointing competitors, industry analysts said this week.

The product's failure would leave a cloud hanging over the company's webOS strategy, said Charles King , principal analyst at Pund-IT.

"If it fails, the common assumption will be that it's simply another in a line of tablets that came up against Apple and was knocked into the gutter," King said.

The TouchPad will have a 9.7-inch screen, a dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor and 16GB or 32GB of storage. A Wi-Fi version will be available initially, with 3G and 4G versions coming later. The tablet has been listed on multiple websites, including Amazon, Best Buy and Staples, but pricing is not yet available.

When it introduced the TouchPad in February, HP highlighted some features that could give the tablet an edge over its rivals. The device runs Adobe Flash, and HP's Touchstone technology allows for wireless communication between webOS-based mobile devices. The company also highlighted Synergy, a software suite that integrates e-mail and information from online sources such as Twitter and Facebook in a single application.

But analysts have said that HP faces challenges because of limited support from application developers. It could also take time for users to get used to a device based on a new OS, said Ezra Gottheil, senior analyst at Technology Business Research.

"I believe webOS will be a winner for HP, but it may start slow in the consumer market, where much of the mindshare is occupied by Apple and Android," Gottheil said.

The tablet wars remind Gottheil of the PC wars in the early 1980s, when IBM, Apple, Commodore and Atari competed on price and features in a bid to sell more PCs.

"I started in the PC industry in 1980, and the tablet industry is at approximately the same point as PCs were then. Apple had the largest market share, and HP was a minor player. I don't think Apple will make the mistakes in tablets that it did in PCs, but HP is definitely in it for the long haul," Gottheil said.


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