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HP's TouchPad brings webOS to tablet

18 Feb 2011
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We're keen on the slick webOS, but can it compete with Android 3.0

Yesterday we saw the new HP Veer and got a webOS demonstration. webOS is HP's mobile operating system (OK, it used to Palm's, but everything is now HP branded, so we're moving with the times), and today we're looking at it in action in more detail on the company's TouchPad tablet. Watch the video above for a breakdown of the key concepts.

CARDS AND MULTITASKING

webOS divides up your tasks into a series of 'cards' that you can flick between using the touchscreen. HP describes the idea behind the system as 'True Multitasking', but which it doesn't just mean a hardware- or software-based capability, but rather a way of organising your tasks so you can easily work on multiple cards at once.

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There's no hard limit to the number of cards you can have open, and it all ran very smoothly on the TouchPad. The tablet has a 1.2GHz dual core processor, part of its MSM8660 Qualcomm chipset, and 1GB of RAM. The 9.7in display has a 1,024x768 resolution, and HP are using an IPS panel to improve viewing angles.

HP TouchPad cards 2

Back to webOS, your cards can be stacked in piles, so you can have multiple emails open, stacked neatly on top of each other. These fan out so you can see how many there are, and you can flick through them with a swipe.

The email client itself works in a concertina manner, from any message you can slide out your inbox from underneath the left-hand side, and then your email accounts can be flicked-out from underneath that. Any card can be discarded by simply flicking it up off the top of the screen, a very satisfying gesture.

SYSTEM BAR AND NOTIFICATION PANEL

The notifcation panel in the top-right corner of webOS is HP's attempt to help you manage all your incoming data, as many of us are besieged by a torrent of emails, status updates and tweets.

Messages slide in across the System Bar at the top of the screen, just like a ticker tape. This lets you see the subject line, or maybe a whole tweet. At the end they reach the notifciation area and are stacked there according to their type. Tap the email icon, for example, and you get a drop down menu, where you can swipe through all the messages, and drag them out into cards as required.

JUST TYPE

Just type is one of our favourite parts of webOS. AS you type into the box it immediately offers a range of intelligent options depending on what you're typing, just like Google's new Instant Search.

The first set of options concerns searching the device itself for relevant content. For example it will offer matches the names of contacts (for calls or texts or email) and bring up web bookmarks, or media content such as photos or videos.

HP TouchPad cards

The second section offers services for you to search the web using the entered term, these are also customisable to include whichever sites you like.

Finally you get shortcuts to common actions, so you could send your entered text as a status update to Facebook, or start an email with it as the subject line. It's a powerful tool, and one you can use a shortcut to start or execute entirely a huge range of common tasks.

HARDWARE

Both the new Veer and Pre3 phones, and the TouchPad itself, share the same brilliantly minimalist design and impressive build quality. All three have built-in wireless charging. You need to buy the charging adaptor, for phones this is a small plinth and the handsets stick to it magnetically. The tablet has a charging stand that can support it at practically any angle from flat to 90 degrees in portrait to landscape.

The devices are cleverly integrated with each other and other HP hardware. Touch one of the phones to the tablet and it will transfer data automatically, see our video demo. Also the tablet has practically all the drivers for every HP printer from the last five years, and the excellent photo app makes it easy to do prints straight from the TouchPad.

HP TouchPad

The Veer smartphone should be available in early spring, while the Pre3 smartphone and a Wi-Fi version of the TouchPad tablet will follow in the summer. We're very excited about giving this mobile operating a full road-test on this new hardware.

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