At a press event on Wednesday, HP announced three next-generation devices based on the webOS system it acquired along with Palm. Key among these devices, however, is the company's first webOS-based tablet, the TouchPad, which will compete against the iPad, Research in Motion's (RIM's) PlayBook, and numerous Android-based tablets when it arrives later this year.

"Today we're embarking on a new era of webOS with the goal of linking a wide family of HP products through the best mobile experience available," said HP Senior Vice President and General Manager Jon Rubinstein. "The flexibility of the webOS platform makes it ideal for creating a range of innovative devices that work together to keep you better connected to your world."

The TouchPad looks a lot like an iPad, with a 9.7" screen, a 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor, 16GB or 32GB of storage, and various wireless capabilities. But unlike the iPad, it can also be used as a companion to a smartphone—in this case, HP's other new webOS-based devices. To share a web browser URL between the products, for example, you can simply tap the devices together. TheTouchPad looks interesting, but it won't ship until sometime this summer.

HP also unveiled two new webOS smartphones, the Pre 3 and the Veer, neither of which are immediately available either. The Pre 3 is the followup to Palm's previous Pre devices, and features a 3.6" WVGA touchscreen, a slide-out hardware keyboard, a 1.4GHz processor, and 8GB or 16GB of internal storage. HP says the Pre 3, like the TouchPad, will ship sometime this summer.

HP's new low-end webOS device, the Veer, will ship a bit earlier, "this spring." It features a smaller form factor than the Pre 3, with a 320 x 400 2.6" screen, a slide-out hardware keyboard, and 8GB of RAM.

According to HP, this new lineup is only a hint at the future of webOS, which the company says will eventually be applied to an even wider range of device types. And unlike with the original webOS launch from a few years ago, this time the platform is ready, and HP has a slew of partners that will be providing apps for the new webOS devices. Some of these partners include Amazon, Beats Audio, Facebook, Pandora, Electronic Arts, and Rovio (the makers of Angry Birds).

Whether HP's webOS products can compete in an already crowded market is unclear, and of course the lengthy time before product availability is disappointing. But that said, all three of these products look interesting and well-designed. I'm eager to check them out in person.