Hewlett-Packard, with several versions of the Pre smartphone and the new TouchPad tablet, is directly targeting Apple with a suite of "connected" devices meant to provide the same range as Apple's iPad and iPhone. The TouchPad, which is expected to ship this summer, is similar to the iPad in size, weight, and hardware capabilities.
What sets the TouchPad apart, says Jon Rubenstein, general manager of Hewlett-Packard's Palm unit, is WebOS. Additionally, its "Touchstone" ability lets you sync conductively (when cases touch) to some Pre smartphones: You lay the Pre on the TouchPad; the Pre essentially tethers and autosyncs its current screen and its data to the TouchPad. Research in Motion plans to do something similar via Bluetooth with the PlayBook and BlackBerry, but the WebOS method is much slicker.
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WebOS 2.1 adds Adobe Flash, voice dialing, and and adjustable on-screen keyboard but otherwise looks and acts very much like the previous versions. It continues to lack enterprise-class Exchange security and management capabilities, though on-device encryption is finally being added. One differentiating feature is that the tablet's on-screen keyboard includes a row of numeral keys. Another is built-in support for wireless printers from HP -- and only HP. As part of HP's Synergy capability, entering your WebOS account name and password automatically syncs the data from your other WebOS devices, such as contacts and calendars.
In addition to the previously announced Pre 2 that becomes available for pre-order on Verizon Wireless tomorrow, HP introduced a smaller device called the Veer, expected to ship this spring. Also debuting was the Pre 3, a larger device with a 3.6-inch display with a resolution twice that of the original Pre and a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor that runs at 1.4GHz. It is expected to ship this summer and supports the Touchstone technology for conductive tablet syncing.
Except for the multiple smartphone sizes, HP's WebOS strategy is very much a clone of Apple's, without the benefit of iTunes as your central console. If you standardize on HP hardware, you get data and account integration.