HP has announced its TouchPad tablet will go on sale in Australia from Monday 15th August.
It's relatively unique in the sea of similar tablets jostling for attention against the iPad, because it runs its own software -- webOS -- rather than Google Android or Apple iOS.
webOS was originally created by Palm for its Pre smart phone, which never went on sale in Australia, and when Palm was recently sold HP, it morphed into a tablet OS.
The TouchPad will come with 16 GB or 32 GB of internal storage, in a Wi-Fi only (no 3G) configuration, and sell for $599 and $699 respectively, making it just a touch more expensive than the iPad, which sells for $579 and $689.
The visual style of its OS is very attractive -- considerably more appealing than the "geeky" look and feel of Google Android, which is the basis of many tablets on the market.
However, it could be a bit of a hard sell when compared to the iPad's slim physique: the TouchPad is 1.37cm thick, where the iPad 2 is only 8.8mm. It's also heavier, at 740g, compared to the iPad's 601g.
What's different about the Touchpad
One of the TouchPad's areas of differentation against the iPad is that it can display websites that use Flash -- something that Google has been keen to point out is a feature of its Android software too.
Another point of difference is that webOS shows you your activities in the form of cards, "not a sea of application icons on numerous home screens", HP says.
webOS groups related cards together (for example, an email, and a web page that was referenced in that email), so you won't need to be flipping through cards randomly trying to find what you're looking for.
Touchpad's communication capabilities
The "HP Synergy" feature keeps your contacts, calendars, messages, photos, and email automatically synced from sources like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Yahoo!, Skype, and Microsoft Exchange. iPad and Android both have most of these features too (though the iPad has no integration with Facebook of its own yet).
TouchPad also offers instant messaging, videos and video calling, with a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera. Skype is built-in, allowing free audio and video calls with Skype users on other platforms.
The TouchPad photo album is hooked up directly with Facebook, Snapfish and Photobucket (though, not Google Picasa or Google+ -- in an apparent slight to the Touchpad's main competitor, Google and its Android OS).
Sound, printing and ... wireless recharging?
HP is also promising that the Touchpad has better sound than the average tablet, with the Beats Audio speakers found in some of its high-end laptops.
Printing from the TouchPad is also possible (and not a surprising feature given HP's heritage in printing!) The company says it works with networked HP printers.
One of the 'pain points' for tablets is that they're yet another gadget you have to remember to plug in and charge. HP is addressing this with wireless charging, using a "Touchstone" inductive charger (pictured below). It's an optional-extra accessory though.