An HP Palm webOS Tablet in Q3?

The newest rumor is that HP is planning to release a webOS tablet, code named Hurricane, in the third quarter of this year. Even Engadget has jumped on the story:

According to an unsubstantiated report over at the Examiner, an “insider at HP” has informed the site that “a webOS tablet under the code name HP Hurricane could be released the third quarter of this year.” This all lines up well with what we’ve heard over the past few weeks: HP pledged to take webOS to places it has never been, strong whispers emerged that the HP Slate was being shelved, and now, people close to the HP camp have given a name to a purported webOS tablet slated for Q3.

Some have speculated that HP could replace Windows 7 on the most-developed HP Slate with webOS, perhaps by porting webOS to the X86 platform to run on the Slates Atom processor. While possible, I doubt it it. The Slate has two things wrong with it relative to Apple’s iPad. First, it runs Windows 7, which is a great desktop OS but requires more than an Atom processor to run with any kind of decent performance. Second, the Atom processor, while relatively efficient compared to Intel’s less thrifty mainstream processors, still doesn’t provide the kind of power savings needed for today’s mobile devices.

My speculation, therefore, is a little different. If HP does indeed plan to release a webOS tablet so soon after the Palm acquisition, then I think it’s because Palm already has a design in place. In fact, a prototype of such a device might have convinced HP that webOS could scale to devices other than smartphones and thus that $1.2 billion wasn’t too much to pay for Palm. HP could already be tooling up its manufacturing resources to meet such a deadline if Palm’s device was far enough along. After all, even if the acquisition falls through, HP could simply license webOS and the tablet’s design from Palm and produce it regardless.

Normally, I’d say such a timeline is incredibly unrealistic. However, these aren’t normal times. Given the iPad’s success (so far) and the lukewarm reception being given to the HP Slate following its brief outing, HP might feel that waiting any longer to go to market with something compelling gives Apple too far of a head start.  And what could be more attractive than a nicely-designed tablet running webOS?

The folks over at webOSRrundup.com have some ideas about what a webOS tablet might look like:

Update: Also, HP recently opened a c0-branded site with Barnes and Noble, http://hp.barnesandnoble.com/ebooks/,that ties in directly to B&N’s ebook market. This would make perfect sense for an upcoming webOS tablet, and would compete nicely against Apple’s iBooks. All HP Palm needs to do is work closely with B&N to develop a solid ebook reader client, which frankly shouldn’t be that difficult for any of the parties involved.

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