The tablet computer market was very simple during the past decade. There was Microsoft’s Tablet PC Edition (later more or less merged into Windows Vista) that was purchased by narrow vertical markets. It remained simple after Apple released the iPad in 2010 too. Windows based tablets remained in their niches and the iPad dominated.

We are now seeing something we haven’t seen since the 1980s: A relatively large number of distinct and mostly incompatible platforms. The 1980s desktop market had a nearly bewildering number of operating systems like TRS-DOS (Radio Shack), CP/M, Apple DOS, MS-DOS (PC-DOS) and several more. This eventually collapsed down to (mostly) Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X and a smattering of Linux desktops.

The tablet market is beginning to resemble the 1980s desktop computer market with iOS (iPad), QNX (RIM PlayBook), Android OS 2.x and 3.x (Google’s fragmented eco-system), eventually Windows 8 (Microsoft) and on July 1, HP’s reboot of webOS in its tablet entry.

HP TouchPad: It’s a date! (The Official HP Palm Blog)

The 16GB model will cost $499.99 (the same as the 16GB WiFi-only iPad 2) while the 32GB model will cost $599.99. Both models are WiFi only. The July 1 launch date is only for the U.S. The TouchPad’s most unique hardware feature will be its optional Touchstone Charging Dock which can charge the tablet without any connectors. This inductive charging technoloy was also used in by the Palm Pre smartphone.