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WebOS headed to a tablet by October

A Hewlett-Packard official says a tablet will be available by October with the newly acquired touch-screen OS from Palm.

Palm Pre WebOS
Palm's WebOS could be on an HP tablet by October. Palm

WebOS will be on a Hewlett-Packard tablet sometime in the next five months.

That's what Marty Wong, the head of HP's Personal Systems Group in Taiwan, said in an interview with Digitimes Friday.

"The HP Slate will hit the market before the end of the fiscal year ending in October, and consumers could see a wide range of software and application support at launch," Wong said.

WebOS is Palm's touch-screen operating system that now is only used in smartphones. In April, HP announced its intentions to purchase Palm for $1.2 billion. The Palm acquisition won't even close until the end of July, but HP now expects a WebOS tablet to be ready in time for fall, which is, not coincidentally, the beginning of holiday shopping for a lot of consumers.

What's still unclear is whether HP is still planning a Slate with Windows 7. HP has declined to comment Friday on the current status of the product. HP introduced the Windows 7 Slate on stage during Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote at CES in January, but since the news of the Palm acquisition hit the company has been mum on its future. HP also declined to comment on a recent report quoting unnamed sources that the company was killing the Windows 7 Slate.

Another interesting tidbit from the Digitimes interview concerns HP's approach to Netboooks. HP has already said it plans to put WebOS on tablets, smartphones, and Web-connected printers, but there was some speculation the OS could be loaded onto HP Netbooks too. However, according to Wong, "since Netbooks are more similar in functions with traditional computers, the company will not offer such WebOS-based devices."

Currently HP Netbooks run Windows 7, Windows XP, and a version of Linux.

If HP is able to ship a WebOS tablet by October, that gives Apple just a six-month head start with the iPad. There should be plenty of people in the market for a tablet bearing a different approach than Apple. HP is positioning itself right now to be the second mainstream gadget maker into this burgeoning market. The other potential competitor out there is Dell, which is working on a series of Android-based tablets, but offering up few details about when they'll hit store shelves.

Updated at 2:45 p.m. PDT with information about the Windows 7 Slate, and HP's response.