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Mobile Computing | News

HP Winding TouchPads Up, Down

The company will briefly continue production of webOS-based tablet that was part of Digital Learning Suite.

The HP webOS lineup includes the TouchPad tablet and Pre handheld devices.
The HP webOS lineup includes the TouchPad tablet and Pre handheld devices.

[Updated Sept. 6, 2011] HP has decided to manufacture one more run of its webOS-based TouchPads, despite a previous announcement that it has halted production. HP may also be planning to spin off its webOS business, according to information reported this weekend by PreCentral.net.

The TouchPad, which was sold as part of the HP Digital Learning Suite, was demonstrated to educators for the first time at ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) 2011 in June. Following lackluster sales, HP decided to kill off its webOS-based handheld devices, which include both the TouchPad and the Palm Pre lines. (HP acquired Palm in a $1.2 billion deal originally announced in April 2010. Its handheld business has been based on technologies acquired in that deal.)

"Our webOS devices have not gained enough traction in the marketplace with consumers, and we see too long a ramp-up in the market share," said Leo Apotheker, HP's president and CEO, in an earnings call with investors and media earlier this month. "Due to market dynamics, significant competition and a rapidly changing environment, continuing to execute our current device approach in this market space is no longer in the best interest of HP and HP's shareholders. Therefore, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to shut down the webOS hardware operations."

However, after dropping the price of the TouchPad devices to $99, demand skyrocketed. The "bonus" run of new devices will help HP meet some--but possibly not all--of the sudden demand.

"We don't know exactly when these units will be available or how many we'll get, and we can't promise we'll have enough for everyone. We do know that it will be at least a few weeks before you can purchase," wrote Mark Budgell in a blog post on the company's Web site.

The HP Digital Learning Suite also includes HP Elite-book 2760p with multitouch technology and options to use as a tablet, HP Z210 Small Form Factor Workstation with educational applications, HP 3105m Note-book PC for students who need a full-feature note-book, HP t5335z and t5565z Smart Clients, and HP Mobile Calculating Lab, which focuses on math and science.

The forthcoming release of the TouchPad will be come in two configurations--a 16 GB model and a 32 GB model (with prices varying on the individual seller)--and will run on webOS 3.0. Features include:

  • 9.7-inch, 1,024 x 768 resolution (diagonal) LED backlit multi-touch display;
  • 1.3 megapixel camera and digital microphone;
  • The ability to flip through multiple apps simultaneously;
  • Automatically sync contacts, calendars, messages, photos, and e-mail from Face-book, Google, and Microsoft Exchange;
  • Instant notification of receiving messages, e-mail, events, etc.;
  • Web browsing, using Adobe Flash Player and HTML5;
  • Wireless printing with compatible networked HP printers;
  • Video chat capability;
  • Watch photos from multiple apps in one location, with the ability to post comments to friends;
  • Download and watch movies from the HP MovieStore11 using RoxioNow, as well as TV shows, play games, listen to music, view photos, and read magazines;
  • 6,300 mAH lithium-polymer battery;
  • Bluetooth 2.1+EDR; and
  • 802.11a/b/g/n connectivity.

For more information about HP's  TouchPad, visit the HP Web site.

In related news, HP is reportedly splitting its webOS division into two units--hardware and software. That based on internal memos from HP executives published on PreCentral.net over the Labor Day weekend. "webOS software engineering, worldwide developer relations and webOS software product marketing [will] join the Office of Strategy and Technology under [Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy and Technology Officer] Shane Robison," while "the remainder of the webOS team, under Stephen DeWitt, [senior vice president and general manager of the webOS global business unit], will continue to report into [HP's Personal Systems Group]." Those comments reportedly originated from Todd Bradley, executive vice president of the Personal Systems Group. A memo purportedly from Robison was also published on the site. Details of that memo jibed with the details of the Bradley memo.

"Reorganizing the webOS software teams under OS&T allows us to fully investigate how we can utilize the webOS software platform," according to the Bradley memo. "The pan-HP charter of OS&T provides a broad view of how we can optimize our technologies. In fact, it has proven to be a successful incubator of technologies; it is home to a team of senior technology experts devoted exclusively to exploring longer-term strategies for our technologies. Currently, OS&T is incubating the HP Cloud Services business units, Vertica and Business Solutions."

As of press time HP had not commented on the leaked memos.

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