Friday, August 12, 2011

HP webOS TouchPad

Updated 19 August, 2011: Breaking and shocking news: HP has decided to kill off webOS hardware, and their PC line too. Absolutely unreal! All readers should NOT buy the TP until more details emerge. I'll still be using it of course as it's been great!

I have been a fan of Palm for over 10 years now. 2 years ago, they introduced the new webOS, the operating system of my current Palm Pre Plus phone. Last year, HP bought them over for US$1b dollars. They did so because they wanted to get into the mobile space as fast as possible. The Cloud was where things were happening, and prior to this, HP had nothing to show for.

In the 1990s, Palm was the underdog battling it out with the mighty Microsoft in the PDA space. Now, an equally fascinating tech story is emerging. How do you release a product like a tablet into a space overwhelmingly owned by Apple and its ever successful iPad offerings? I always enjoy battles like this waged by underdogs against overwhelming odds (even though HP can't really be considered underdogs; they are one of the world's biggest tech companies.) How do you actually market a product like this?

Speaking from almost a year's experience using the Palm Pre Plus phone, webOS, with its card metaphor, is the most intuitive, elegant, and fun Internet-connected operating system for a smartphone I've ever used. This, I think is webOS' comparative advantage. With the correct hardware, webOS can provide a level of productivity not available in competing operating systems. Everything just works very well together.

So anyway, one year on, the new webOS tablet was being released worldwide, and today it's released in Singapore. (If your country doesn't have it, get it from Amazon.) Overall first day feelings: A ROCK SOLID freshman offering from HP. A- going to A if we look at the operating system alone. The design is not unlike the webOS phones, and the intuitiveness of it all is striking. If an alien were to look at this, and compare it with how other tablets work, I don't have much doubt that the alien would pick the TouchPad. Silky smooth response, no lag, high frames per second. The other thing is Synergy, which works by consolidating most/all of your other online information into the tablet nicely and automatically. This alone is worth the price of admission.

That's the good stuff. What's the not so good stuff? Apps. Paid apps are still not available in Singapore, and that would be quite frightening for those who aren't used to this sort of thing. Basic apps are still missing; a word processor needs to be available as soon as possible. Multi-language support is still lacking.

I guess the folks in charge are on it, so hopefully we can buy apps soon. I'll write more when I spend more time with it. It's a very encouraging start, and it's up to HP to bring it to the next level. They really have a shot at carving out a new market, for people who actually want to do something with their tablets, and not just consuming information. Check out the lower prices for this month. It's now $599 and $699 for the 16gb and 32gb versions. The bundles are good too; TouchPad Case and Wireless Keyboard at a promotional offer of S$699 and S$799, respectively.

I'll write more in the next few weeks. In the meantime, join the Facebook group and SPUG. More pictures below.