HP Touchpad–Dead on Arrival?

So the HP Touchpad came out last week hoping to fulfill the dreams those many Tablet lusters that are uninterested in Apple and disenchanted by Android. Most of the major review sites have poured in their opinions now and unfortunately, its not the slam dunk that HP and us geeks were hoping for. Should have been surprised? Probably not.

I have to admit that I was drooling with the thought of an OS platform that seemed to be designed specifically for the needs of tablet users that would seemingly be as integrated as Apple hopes to be but as customizable as Android. I was enticed by the amazing WebOS card system. I was enticed by the responsiveness that I was shown in WebOS advertisement videos. I was happy to see a tablet other than the iPad finally sporting the 4:3 aspect ratio. I was enticed by the knowledge that HP has been trying to reach out to the creators of unofficial apps and projects such as Cyanojen because as much as a user interface can be amazing, if it doesn’t have software, then it won’t succeed. It seemed like the Touchpad had everything it needed to succeed.

And then it came out. The reviews are pretty mixed, but all tend to be unfavorable.

Engadget, the Apple loving hippies that they are, of course blasted the unfortunate device: OMG its not an iPad

CNET has a more unbiased review but still believes it to be not up to par: CNET

This Is My Next kinda shrugged: TIMN

Gottabemobile hasn’t reviewed it currently but asked who even got one: GBM: Who Decided to Buy One

And finally Ars Technica tried to give the promising tablet a fair shake, even to the extent of mostly ignoring the performance problems that will probably be addressed in further updates, but inevitably brought it down: Ars Technica Review

Unfortunately, after my limited time with the tablet, I have to agree. The platform is promising. It is mostly pretty quick and responsive but those glaring hicups with performance constantly annoy me. The app catalogue is anemic at best. Its obvious that this is a 1.0 device. And that made me think, well of course this is a 1.0 device, but everyone has to start from somewhere right? HP is promising OTA updates to fix all the software problems (From WebOS Chief). They are promising that the home brew community is alive and well (ZDNET).

This would all be well and good if the competition was in the same place. The fact is, the iPad has already had a year and a half of development, not to mention several years of iPhone development that actually works just fine on the bigger device. Android’s tablet development has been slow but at least it is fully compatible with the exploding phone market, lending hundreds of thousands of apps and custom tweaks etc.

If the Touchpad came out last year, none of the problems HP has right now would be problems. The iPad still needed a boost that the iPad 2 would give it. Android was still having issues that Honeycomb was supposed to solve. Unfortunately, though, WebOS 3.0 is only promising, its not a slam dunk. As CNET declares, this is a tablet that smells like last year. Its not HPs fault (okay maybe that atrocious glossy plastic is). Nobody could have guessed that the tablet market would move this fast. That a single year could make or break a product. It’s the fact that WebOS is now climbing an uphill battle attempting to grasp at Android’s 2nd place only to realize that 2nd place is where the mountain is crumbling.

However, its not all dismal news for HP. There are some things that could help WebOS succeed. Note I said WebOS and not the Touchpad. These are very different products with very different futures. There are rumors already of a refreshed Touchpad coming, and there is no doubt that HP will be releasing more WebOS products in the future. However, the most promising piece of info for HP is that unlike Apple, HP will be offering licensing for its Mobile OS and already we are hearing about talks with Samsung. In addition, we are hearing reports that HP has been giving not only free tablets but also even servers to app developers to help them get apps on their platform. Its clear that HP is throwing every possible solution forward to get their software platform out there, and because of its merits and the possibility of extra devices through licensing, WebOS has the possibility of eventually being a viable and successful alternative to Android (as an alternative to iOS).

Currently its a wait and see market. While WebOS clamours for the crumbling second place marker, Apple continues to dominate the tablet sphere. Is it a chicken and egg scenario? Will people buy into a new platform with no guaranteed promise? Will developers buy into a platform that is still only an alternative? Will HP continue shoving vast amounts of money into their platform to keep it alive? Will the rumored iPad 3 send everyone else back into oblivion?

Sheesh, I think I’m gonna stick to laptops for now.

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