HP Touchpad

The HP TouchPad launches this Friday and HP’s first webOS tablet is a pretty big gamble. How big? Well, the company spent $1.2 billion to acquire Palm and its webOS software. Not all of those eggs are in the tablet basket. Palm continues to introduce new smartphones and HP has talked about using webOS on desktop and laptop computers and other devices including internet-connected printers. But really, the TouchPad is a big part of it.

But how do you make a tablet stand out in the age of the Apple iPad and roughly a trillion Android tablets? HP’s hope is that by controlling the hardware and the software the company will be able to offer a more consistent user experience than Android. Since there are multiple versions of the Android operating system in the wild, and multiple manufacturers producing devices with the operating system, sometimes it feels like a crap shoot when you’re trying to figure  out if an app will even run on your shiny new phone or tablet.

Apple has had great success by controlling the software and hardware on its computers, phones, media players, and tablets, so HP’s gamble makes sense. But Research in Motion has taken a similar approach with the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, and while the company has shipped about half a million units, that’s just a drop in the bucket when compared with 25 million iPads Apple has sold.

In other words, there’s no guarantee that simply producing good hardware and software and making sure they play well together will lead to consumer acceptance of your product. In a baffling display of logic though, HP’s Phil McKinney tells Fast Company thatthe Android ecosystem is fragmented which causes confusion among developers and customers when they don’t know for certain which apps will run on which devices. The baffling part is that HP’s solution is to go with webOS — a platform where there certainly isn’t the same kind of confusion — but where there simply aren’t as many apps.

There are over 300,000 third party apps available for Android devices. There are only a few thousand for webOS. Sure, that could change very quickly if and when the HP TouchPad and the latest Palm phones become popular consumer devices, but it’s not clear if they can become popular consumer devices without more support from third party developers at the outset.

Still, HP executives say that there will be about 300 apps developed specifically for the TouchPad on day one. That might sound like a really small number, but it’s actually much higher than the number of tablet apps designed for Android when the first Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet launched in February. In fact, there still might not be 300 apps designed specifically for Honeycomb tablets. Fortunately both webOS 3.0 and Android 3.x do a pretty good job of running smartphone apps as well as tablet apps.

Is it too late for HP to enter the market and shake things up? Not necessarily. After all, Apple wasn’t the first company to release a smartphone or a tablet. There’s always room for good ideas to rise to the top. But is HP making a $1.2 billion gamble with its latest move? It sure looks like it.

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5 replies on “HP: The TouchPad will launch with less apps than Android, but offer a more unified experience”

  1. I think I would love the webOS tablet.  However, its not on my To Buy list because I could never deal with any of the webOS phones.  Am I alone in wanting some synergy between by tablet and phone experience?

  2. Is HP going to get sued (just like Samsung is for the iPhone-ish Galaxy) for making their tablet look like the iPad?  Also, that raised bezel on the surface of the TouchPad is not very clean and attractive.  Is it just me or does the home page have the look of the Dell Streak UI?  

    1. Well, its WebOS, so the home page is the same as its been for the most part. So the Dell Stage UI is more of a copy of WebOS. As is BlackBerry’s QNX OS a copy of WebOS. Which says, everyone likes the idea of WebOS, now they just have to start buying them. HP might be able to do what Palm wasn’t able to do.

      1. HP is also trying to get other companies to make WebOS products.  They’re in talks with number of other companies, including Samsung, for producing their own WebOS devices.

        If they succeed then that help jump start more interest for 3rd party developers.  Along with promoting competition for better pricing for end consumers.

  3. I think one factor that will help HP is how WebOS allows them to make a range of their products into essentially a product ecosystem.

    Examples like being able to just tap a WebOS phone to a WebOS tablet to go to the same web page and continue doing what you were doing with the phone while on the go shows there is much more potential to the range of usage scenarios that WebOS can provide versus Android.

    Especially since Android is still working on even support for multiple resolutions and screen sizes.  Honeycomb 3.2 being the first version to support 7″ to 10″ range out of the box, which is in addition to getting all apps to work on all Android devices.

    So that takes a pretty big chunk out of Androids app market advantage.  While Apple still has the largest app market, but this doesn’t prevent Android from continuing to compete.

    The problem with the RIM Playbook was it was a single 7″ tablet device, they weren’t making a range of offerings like HP, and that they made the mistake of having to rely on having a Blackberry to use things like the mail feature.

    Generally people don’t like obvious handicaps when they are paying pretty hefty prices for their products.

    While RIM was also more of a unknown than HP, and had other failings like the limited success of their Blackberry Torch, it wasn’t the home run they needed to hold onto their market share and now combined with Playbook they are hurting financially and all of that effects consumer confidence in a company’s product.

    So I think HP stands a better chance, still a gamble but not an insane one.  Especially since HP is also a bigger company that can afford better marketing than RIM ever could, better promote and develop their own apps, and can endure longer to give their products time to mature in the market.

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