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Tuesday, December 21, 2010, 02:00 pm PT (05:00 pm ET)

HP, Microsoft to take on Apple's iPad and each other at CES [u]

Just like last year's Consumer Electronics Show, HP and Microsoft will be showing off their latest tablet competitors to Apple's iPad. This year however, the two PC partners will be tablet rivals.

According to a report by Fox News, HP will be showing off its new PalmPad at this year's CES, running a version of the webOS acquired from Palm last fall.

HP's PalmPad will reportedly be offered in a variety of configurations that are "collectively a spin-off of the never-released HP Slate," the report states. HP's Slate PC running Windows 7, shown last year in partnership with Microsoft, was actually released this fall, but only to business customers. It had a very limited production run believed to be less than 9,000 total units.

The report says HP's new hardware will "run on Sprint's fast 4G network, but otherwise it has hardware specs nearly identical to Apple’s iPad." It also states the new HP tablet will be thinner than the iPad, weigh less (1.25 lbs compared to the iPad at 1.5 or 1.6lbs), have a USB 3.0 port and front and rear facing cameras, both with LED flashes.

It's unclear from the report what the screen sizes of the three PalmPad units expected to be shown at CES will be, but a fourth model intended for universities is said to have an 8.9 inch screen and "any other specs specifically requested by the institution." The report speculates that the other versions will "probably" offer screens "nearly identical to the 9.7 inch LCD on the iPad."

HP takes on the tablet solo with Palm software

The report noted that HP's chief executive Todd Bradley earlier stated in the company's August conference call, "you'll see us with a Microsoft product out in the near future and a webOS-based product in early 2011." HP delivered its $799 Slate PC running Windows 7 in October, just months after Bradley's comments.

While it didn't sell well, it featured an 8.9 inch screen, weighed 1.5 lbs, and uses an Atom processor, a low power version of Intel's x86 CPU family. It is unlikely that HP would deliver a substantially different hardware design for the PalmPad just three months later, given that it took the company ten months to bring the Slate PC to market after first showing it at CES.

The images Fox printed of PalmPad depict it as being nearly identical to the existing Slate PC, making it hard to understand how it could be thinner than the iPad while also significantly lighter without having very little battery capacity. The graphic also refers to the "HP palmPad Dock," indicating HP will be using the Palm branding, but will stylize it in lower case, similar to how Palm branded its webOS.

HP PalmPad and Slate PC


On page 2 of 2: Microsoft takes on tablets without HP, and perhaps Intel, Atom and ARM, CES Showdown.