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Before the smartphones and the mobile industry as we know it developed to what it is today, Palm was seen as one of the largest and most powerful manufactures of PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) devices – essentially smartphones without the mobile networks and mobile data connectivity.  However, as the mobile industry became packed with newcomers and new innovations, Palm quickly became left in the dust and was regarded as nothing more than a company that could not keep up with the times.  Even though Palm produced smartphones as well, they simply were not competing with the new manufacturers at the same level that they once had.

In an effort to get back in the smartphone industry as a bigger player once again, Palm developed the webOS platform which was introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2009 – along with the Palm Pre, which became much sought-after at the time.  One of the key features behind webOS, as its name suggests, was the fact that it integrated very heavily with the mobile web and Internet communications, allowing users to be connected to what mattered to them.

In April of last year, HP announced the purchase of Palm – a business move which allowed them to take hold of the webOS platform.  Now, nearly two years after the announcement of the Palm Pre and its flagship webOS platform, neither the Palm Pre or webOS are seen as viable competition in a mobile market dominated by Apple’s iOS operating system and devices and Google’s Android mobile operating system.  However, with the HP acquisition of Palm and their webOS product, it now appears that HP is following suit with a number of other manufacturers such as Acer, Nvidia, RIM, and Vizio in pursuing the new mobile market and creating their own tablet computing product.

You see, HP recently announced that they will be holding a “webOS” event in San Fransisco on February 9th.  While it is not exactly clear what the event will be concerning, there is definitely reason to believe that HP will use what is now a highly publicized event in order to announce their own tablet-based computing solution running the webOS operating system.  Electronista is predicting that HP will introduce this device – which would replace their failed venture at creating and marketing a Windows-based tablet – at this event, and that the device will likely have a 10″ display, front and back cameras, and potentially even USB 3.0 ports.

While this is indeed only speculation, Electronista seems confident in their predictions based on insider reports that the tablet has already been designed and will ship out as soon as March of this year, pending quality control tests and launch preparation on HP’s part.  Electronista even goes as far as to name Inventec as HP’s contracting partner on the project, however fails to provide specific details as to what hardware or specifications the tablet would have.

Again, this information is only rumor at this stage in the game, but when one looks at the fine details, Electronista’s information seems to make a great deal of sense.  You see, the original iPad was announced by Apple in January of last year, and hit the market in April of the same year after receiving a great deal of attention in the press – the same month that HP announced their acquisition of Palm.  When looking at these dates, it almost seems as if HP acquired Palm specifically for their developments with webOS and were looking to create a competitor to the iPad all along.

As if this weren’t coincidental enough, a March 2011 release of an HP-backed webOS tablet would come around the exact same time as a “refresh” for the Apple iPad product.  Having said this, the close timing between these two predicted product releases would potentially force Apple to share the spotlight with HP.  Is this an intentionally planned effect?  I’ll leave that up to you.  But if it is, it’s definitely a clever move on HP’s part.

But this all still raises the question: how will an HP tablet differ from an iPad? In all honesty, this is a difficult question to answer given the fact that there is no official word on what hardware and specifications the device would sport.  In fact, there aren’t even any detailed predictions as to the hardware.  However, given the fact that the operating system is called “webOS”, it would definitely be a safe guess to assume that the product will focus highly on mobile communications and allowing users to keep in touch.  Other than that, your guess is really as good as mine.

What do you think?  Will we be seeing a webOS tablet?  Better yet, will it compete with the iPad, and has HP orchestrated the release of it intentionally to do so?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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