Over the past year there has been a good deal of talk about HP (news, site) and tablets. Its latest release brings a web-enabled tablet to its printers that will enable users to, amongst other things, search for content across the web and then print it out.

While it goes against the current trend towards paperless offices, this new tablet, which will accompany the PhotoSmart eStation all-in-one printer, will remain in the niche printer market even though it is operating on a customized version of Google’s Android operating system and can support a number of applications including many for social media.

Tablet and Applications

The new tablet comes with a seven-inch screen and HP has partnered with as many as 45 different companies in order to make applications that will provide best access to content not only from the web, but from e-mail and e-books too.

And all that content will be printable. The new eStation with tablet will be able to print up to 33 pages a minutes in black and white.

This is not the release of the consumer tablet from HP that everyone has been waiting to see, but it does set up its stall in the tablet marketplace.

Document Management

While its principal function is to act as a control panel for the printer, it does carry out some basic document management functions like moving documents around the system, access multiple devices to take content from those devices and exchange content between devices.

Although this tablet is already shipping, Yahoo! (news, site) is still working away to provide widgets and applications for it so that users will be able to print commonly used content like news, finance and weather content.

It is also unsuitable for the apps currently available in the Android market, principally because it comes with a seven inch screen and applications available there are generally for smaller formats.

We have a 7-inch display and most Android apps are not designed for 7-inch displays . . . For us this is all about content, the things that people want in a printed form on a regular basis,” Jeff Walter, marketing manager of inkjet and Web solutions business at HP told the media at the launch.

The Photosmart Estation printer that the tablet comes with will be priced at US$ 399 and it is not clear if the tablet will be sold independently of the printer.

HP and Tablets

That it has launched this tablet now reflects the huge amount of work HP has been putting into the web-enabled printer space over the past year.

In June, HP added a web connection and email address to its printers with the new ePrint platform using Google cloud capabilities so users will be able to print anything and from anywhere. This software solution enabled ePrint connected printers to access files in the cloud through Google Docs, Google Photos and Google calendar, and print those files across an international network of printers.

It works by giving each printer its own email address so designated users can use their smartphone, tablet or laptop to print remotely without using drivers.

However, it is HP’s consumer tablet that everyone is waiting for news on. It has already confirmed that it is working on a number of different tablets as well as the consumer tablet that will work off the WebOS operating system.