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HP webOS Tablet May Ship In February

HP may introduce a tablet computer based on its webOS software as soon as Feb. 9, according to numerous reports that surfaced Tuesday.

Hewlett-Packard is said to have released a training video to retail partners that outlines a strategy the company calls, "The Big Idea." Under that blueprint, it appears HP plans to use webOS—the software it acquired through its acquisition of Palm--as the glue that unites a number of platforms, including netbooks, smartphones, and tablets.

"If I could run webOS on my phone, and a slate, and a netbook … And they all talked to each other and shared information … A friendly little product family … That connects you to the world in amazing new ways," a narrator states on the promotional video, according to those who have seen it.

HP has not confirmed the reports, but it has invited the media to a webOS-related event slated for Feb. 9.

HP is taking a gamble in shipping a tablet based on its own operating system. Apple has a big head start on the competition with its iOS-based iPad and a rich developer community in place, while numerous OEM hardware makers, including Dell and Samsung, are counting on Google's Android platform to drive their slate efforts.

Longtime HP partner Microsoft, meanwhile, is late to the party. CEO Steve Ballmer demonstrated an HP tablet running Windows as far back as the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. But the device was never fully commercialized and HP and Microsoft now appear to be headed in different directions as far as tablets are concerned.

Microsoft still insists Windows is the best, most versatile OS for tablets, but recently conceded that it won't truly be a player in the market until the arrival of Windows 8. The company said it will develop a version of Windows 8 geared to run on ARM processors, which are the preferred chips for most tablet makers given their energy efficiency.

Windows 8 is expected to hit the market some time in 2012. By then, Apple, Google, and HP could have a lock on tablets, which may represent the tech industry's hottest growth market. Analysts at Goldman Sachs recently said they expect tablets to displace one in three PC sales this year.