HP Preps 'PalmPad' for CES 2011 Debut

Last week, we noted that Microsoft is preparing to relaunch its vision of tablets at January's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2011 in Las Vegas. Despite a tablet-focused keynote by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at CES 2010, Apple's iPad has stolen the show and dominated the tablet market this year as competitors have stumbled trying to bring their products to market.

One of the prototype tablets demoed by Ballmer at CES 2010 was a "slate" from HP, which eventually did come to market in modified form as a business-focused tablet running Windows as originally demoed. But HP has seen fit to reboot its tablet strategy in the wake of its acquisition of Palm earlier this year, reportedly shifting gears to base its forthcoming consumer-focused tablets on a tweaked version of Palm's webOS.

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Images from spec sheet for HP's PalmPad

FoxNews.com now reports that HP/Palm is planning to introduce three models of the "PalmPad" at CES 2011. According to the report, the PalmPad will be similar in many respects to the iPad, although it will offer front- and rear-facing cameras and sport mini HDMI and USB 3.0 ports.

HP will introduce three models of the PalmPad at CES, with minor hardware differences distinguishing them. All three will run a new iteration of the WebOS operating system, version 2.5.1; they're collectively a spin-off of the never-released HP Slate. A fourth version won't be shown off at CES, I'm told, but it will be custom made for university students to prove how versatile the machines can be.

The consumer version of the PalmPad will run on Sprint's fast 4G network, but otherwise it has hardware specs nearly identical to Apple's iPad. There are minor differences, of course: It has a mini HDMI port, for example, while the iPad requires a special dongle for video output. And there are front- and rear-facing cameras (1.3 megapixel and 3 megapixel, respectively), both with LED flashes.

Sources indicate that the PalmPad will be available in March 2011, likely bumping right up against the release of the second-generation iPad if recent rumors are correct in pointing to a yearly refresh cycle for the device.

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