Just five weeks into her job and three and a half months after HP pulled the plug on WebOS and its WebOS-based Touchpad line, Meg Whitman today announced that HP plans to retain its PC division and re-enter the tablet business.  However, behold, HP may never bring another WebOS tablet to the market.  While HP arguably sees a future in tablets, the company does not necessarily feel the same way for its (discontinued) WebOS-based tablets.  And with WebOS out, Microsoft has interestingly emerged as HP’s tablet OS of the future.

HP revealed that the company is in fact working “very closely” with Microsoft and plans to launch a Windows 8 tablet.  Windows 8 … really??!!  That’s a long road ahead.  If recent rumors are to be believed, Microsoft may not release its much anticipated Windows 8 OS until August 2012.  Yes…not until August 2012!  HP emphasized that the tablet market is still in its beginning stages and that the vendor will not be late to the battle field with its Window 8 devices.

HP did not really disclose reasons for its preference for Windows when compared to Android.  However, it should be noted that HP was one of the frontrunners in adopting the Windows OS for tablets and in October 2010, the vendor released its first Windows 7 tablet, the HP Slate.  Now that could have compelled HP to partner with its old buddy Microsoft for tablets once again!  While a large number of vendors have embraced the Android OS and Android-based tablets have certainly taken off in terms of their retail presence, reports suggest that household penetration of Android-tablets has been pretty lackluster.

While, HP may be a late entrant to the market, interestingly Windows 8 OS could actually provide some differentiation to HP’s tablets against most vendors who have gone with the Android platform.  90 percent of current tablets in gap intelligence’s panel are based on Android and the iOS platforms.  Windows 8 will also provide HP with an existing eco-system as all its traditional PCs run on the Windows OS. Additionally, consumers are already familiar with Windows OS and are likely to be less apprehensive when making a Windows-tablet purchase.

In its conference call today, HP tried to convince analysts that its Microsoft-based tablet will be compelling enough and have some unique differentiators.  Although Windows 8 is still unproven, it is based on an OS that HP has been working with for decades and gives the vendor a second chance at creating an eco-system with its tablets, notebooks, and desktops running on the Windows 8.