First details on HP’s upcoming webOS tablets revealed

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A Google+International” target=”_blank”>long-standing rumor that started soon after HP bought Palm last year was that the newly consolidated company was working on a tablet running Palm's webOS platform, with an October 2010 launch on the cards. This never materialized, but the indications of new webOS devices remained with most of us wondering when and not if it would happen. Well as is the case with many secrets in the tech world these days, it looks like the cat has been let out of the bag early with newly released images and details of HP Palm's first webOS tablets making the headlines.

Comprised of two similar tablets with mineral-inspired names, the 9-inch "Topaz" (shown in the leaked images) and more interestingly for us the 7-inch "Opal", the leak reveals new entries into the tablet fray that look certain to be revealed at a HP Palm event penciled in for the 9th of February. So far exact details remain uncertain, but the latest information indicates that the tablets will feature very sleek and simple buttonless designs as depicted in these renders, with the usual array of standard ports, front facing camera, and speakers. Interestingly, the speaker array appears to be a triple unit configuration in three corners to provide stereo sound in both portrait and landscape orientations.

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Focusing specifically on the Opal, the webOS slate is rumored to have an XGA (1024×768) capacitive touch screen, include HP's premium audio features, and measure about 7.1 x 5.7 x 0.5-inches (WxHxD). Processing power is alleged to come from an unspecified 1.2GHz chip, with the device's features being very heavily integrated with the cloud, using cloud-based storage and services rather than relying solely on inbuilt storage and apps.

Leveraging the capabilities of the well respected webOS software and platform, the Opal should also include full Flash support, exceptional web browsing performance, and true multitasking capabilities. There also appears to be an emphasis on some interesting phone-to-tablet communication features: integrating and streamlining the use of the two devices, and music/media features including what sounds like a cloud-based library service. Another potentially attractive inclusion in the spec sheet is the possibility of Touchstone wireless charging.

Regarding availability, further leaked information indicates that the Opal will launch around September of this year, with WiFi-only, 3G (on AT&T), and LTE 4G (on Verizon) versions being available for consumers to choose from. Pricing is unknown, but with network specific versions being mentioned, the tablets are certain to be available subsidized on subscription.

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As an admirer of webOS, this virtual confirmation of the long rumored HP Palm tablet is very welcome news and a very intriguing twist in the increasingly iOS and Android dominated airwaves.

It's hard to draw any meaningful conclusions at this point with the unconfirmed information, but it sounds like HP Palm are heading in the right direction to make a competitive device. The only reservation so far is the late launch date of September, which would significantly be after most of its major competitors and the release of the tablet-specific Android Honeycomb OS from Google.

[Engadget 1 & 2]
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Jeremy To

Jeremy is a former editor at Pocketables.

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