Visiting HP's stand at Gadget Show Live in Birmingham yesterday, PC Advisor spent an hour taking a look at the firm's forthcoming HP TouchPad tablet.

HP is convinced that the TouchPad has what it takes, but faces an uphill task: the TouchPad is trying to break into a tablet market currently dominated by Apple's iPad 2, with heavyweight rivals starting to arrive in their droves. And it won't hit the market until summertime, we were told.

Hands on with the HP TouchPad tablet

And senior product manager Andrea Palisca, who gave us a hands-on demo of the TouchPad, recognised how hard it will be for a latecomer like the TouchPad to overcome rivals' platform familiarity. When we asked how confident HP was about winning over customers now accustomed to Apple's iOS and Google Android, he admitted that it was "like getting them to change religion". Uniquely among tablet devices, the TouchPad is based on Palm's WebOS.

Still, at this early stage - several months before launch, and before the firm was willing to offer even an estimate of a UK price - the TouchPad looks like a contender.

Palisca talked up the TouchPad's multitasking capabilities, with an attractive 'Cards' applications overview allowing the user to easily move between simultaneously running apps - we say 'simultaneously running', although games will pause when you move back into the Cards view.

HP TouchPad demo

Each app windows appears like a swipable tile; related windows, such as separately opened emails, can be stacked on top of one another

We were struck by how different this was from other tablets we've tried out. That gives the TouchPad the opportunity to stand out in a market that remains quite thin at the moment, but is sure to be packed by summer; but could present difficulties inspiring consumer confidence in something that's so different from, for example, the iOS environment that Apple has been diligently immersing consumers in for years.

Tablet Advisor

TouchStone: Convenient and cool

A really intriguing and cool feature that will be offered by the TouchPad is called TouchStone. It's a technology originally - and still - used for inductively charging Palm phones through wireless contact, but can also be used to 'sync' the activities of a smartphone with the Touchpad tablet simply by touching the two devices together.

Say you're browsing a recipe website on your tablet while relaxing at home, and find something that appeals. You don't want to lug the TouchPad to the shops with you, and you can't be bothered to write a list of ingredients on paper. Instead, you touch your smartphone on the edge of the tablet, and an appealing 'ripple' effect indicates that contact has been achieved. Then the phone promptly browses to the same web page.

HP TouchPad - TouchStone function

The smartphone is opening the same web page, as instructed by the TouchPad

HP TouchPad specs

The HP TouchPad is based on a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-CPU APQ8060 processor (as opposed to the iPad's 1GHz A4) and the WebOS platform. It has a 9.7in (1024x768) capacitive multitouch screen, a front-facing 1.3MP camera and 16GB or 32GB of internal storage. It weighs 740g.

See also:

Video: hands on with the HP TouchPad

HP TouchPad review