HP reportedly preparing a WebOS tablet launch

The Apple iPad exploded on to the consumer electronics scene, creating an entirely new tablet PC category and now other manufacturers are desperately trying to ready their own similar devices. Hewlett-Packard is expected to make a serious push into the tablet market in 2011, with both Microsoft Windows and WebOS products reportedly in the works.

At the anticipated WebOS press conference occuring on February 9th, HP is expected to publicly unveil the “Topaz” and “Opal” tablet devices. Hardware specifications, pricing, and launch details are also expected to be revealed at this event. Not surprisingly, HP hasn’t spoken publicly about pending WebOS tablet releases in 2011, but analysts expect the company to enter the market soon.

HP reportedly preparing a WebOS tablet launch

The Opal reportedly has a 7-inch screen, with the Topaz sporting a larger 9-inch screen (and higher expected price tag). HP wants both tablets to be trendy as well as functional, and will use a 1024×768 TFT LCD screen and a front-facing camera. The Wi-Fi-only tablets are powered by 1.2GHz CPUs and also come loaded with three internal speakers and a micro-USB port. 3G/Verizon LTE (4G) versions are expected later in the year.

HP must try to release quality products as quickly as possible, or it risks facing defeat at the hands of multiple rivals who will have tablet devices available soon. An Engadget report indicates a March launch for both tablets, with the official announcement expected during next month’s press conference.

The iPad clearly controls the current tablet market, but dozens of rivals are expected to be released this year. None of the rival tablets will have the marketing hype and public fanfare as Apple product launches, but the variety will give consumers a larger selection of products to choose from.

In the grand scheme of things, this will be a very important step forward for HP and WebOS — the main driving force behind HP’s acquisition of Palm — with skeptics claiming the OS will not have a long-term presence in the tablet market.