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HP launches TouchPad tablet device

Company projects to be a tablet alternative in the marketplace

HP (NYSE: HPQ) launches its TouchPad tablet device today in Canada.

According to Sherief Ibrahim, HP Canada Category Leader for WebOS, the new TouchPad is all about the operating system. It’s what HP hopes will become a major difference against its rivals. HP said WebOS has been designed to work with users in a more open apps type of environment.

For example, the TouchPad can stack apps on top of one another.

You can also flick the app off the screen and it will be saved and closed. “What’s really cool is that it brings services into the ecosystem such as Skype and Facebook in a synergistic approach,” he said.

Users can click on photos online, make a comment and it will be published on Facebook without opening up the Facebook application.

The TouchPad also enables users to view applications such as Skype, Email and calendar in a unified way. No longer do they have to be in separate panes.

Just Type is a new feature that enables users to type in anything and the TouchPad gets you the app or a contact name or a photo, a LinkedIn contact depending on what you have in either portrait or landscape mode.

You can also use Just Type to make Tweets on Twitter or update your Facebook page.

“You can find anything just by typing,”

The TouchPad will feature HP App Store Catalog. It currently had more than 1,000 apps for smart phone of which 300 have been optimized for the TouchPad. It comes with the Quick Office productivity suite of applications and Google Docs.

One of the more interesting features of the TouchPad is that if you have a document open and its left unattended it will go into sleep mode but as a useful tool such as your agenda, an alarm clock or a photo frame. The TouchPad comes with its own dock and BlueTooth keyboard and according to HP sources they are working on bring in a world fact book to the device.

If you have a Palm Pre 3 smart phone and the TouchPad you can connect the two just by putting on top of the other. “You can get a text message and you can respond to it on the TouchPad,” Ibrahim said.

HP enters the tablet arena againsts many rivals.

The HP TouchPad is just the latest in a string of would-be iPad competitors which include tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom, and BlackBerry PlayBook. Despite beating the iPad on paper, and receiving relatively supportive reviews, these platforms have barely made a ripple in the tablet market.

The Xoom shipped an estimated 250,000 units. The BlackBerry PlayBook was supposed to challenge the iPad 2 as well. Like the Xoom, the PlayBook sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 250,000 units its first month as well.

By contrast, the iPad 2 sold roughly 2.5 million units in about three weeks during March. That means that the two leading iPad rivals combined sold about 20 percent of the number of iPad 2s Apple shipped in less time.

Now, we get to see if HP’s TouchPad can put a dent in Apple’s dominance of the tablet market. The TouchPad is built on HP’s webOS mobile platform–acquired by HP when it purchased the flailing Palm. webOS was widely hailed as a contender to rival iOS, but failed to live up to sales expectations. Despite being innovative, and a superior mobile platform to iOS in many ways, the webOS smartphone just never really caught on.