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Summary:

Think HP’s TouchPad doesn’t stand a chance in the tablets wars? It’s early yet, and this video walkthough of webOS 3.0 via a leaked emulator may change your mind. The user interface borrows from Apple’s iOS, but adds a number of compelling features sure to impress.

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A beta emulator of HP’s webOS 3.0 leaked, and enthusiasts wasted no time putting together an extensive video walk-through of the platform on a virtual tablet. While webOS is still a work in progress, nearly 19 minutes of feature demonstrations show a highly user-friendly and effective touch interface. Software is only part of the equation, of course; HP will have to entice developers to create applications for the TouchPad tablet, due out this summer.

PreCentral’s Derek Kessler provides the virtual tablet tour, and even the naysayers would have to admit that webOS 3.0 impresses. Much of the user interface has an Apple iOS look-and-feel, just as the original Palm Pre handset did, but there are noticeable differences and improvements. The webOS notification system allows for email triage, for example. A word auto-completion feature, similar to that on many smartphones, is available. In landscape view, the email client can show mail in full-screen mode or users can view both mail contents and folders with one swipe. And while it’s not shown in this video demo, HP’s webOS phones interact directly and wirelessly with the TouchPad via the Touchstone technology: touching the phone to the tablet, for example, can shoot a website address from one to another.

My take on the video demo mirrors Om’s thoughts from when he took an early look at HP’s tablet efforts in February:

In theory, it seems to be one of the best competitors for the Apple iPad (I think Google’s Android OS on tablets is a tad half-baked). By using its core multitasking features, HP has created an extremely integrated user experience that marries applications to actual usage behavior and workflows.

Of course, a solid and fully-featured mobile device platform alone won’t sell tens of millions of TouchPads for HP. Outside he tablet pricing and hardware components – HP has already announced the specs and this shouldn’t be an issue — the TouchPad’s biggest challenge to success will be the quality and amount of third-party software. That’s still the big unknown. But if mobile app developers are impressed by the operating system’s early look, and HP can woo them with incentives, TouchPad sales might keep the forecasters honest. Recent estimates pegged HP with a paltry 3-percent market share for tablets by 2015.

  1. junkyardwillie Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    I’m still not convinced. The Pre had the same “great” OS that the tablet has and I had a Pre for a few months before I jumped shipped over to Android when the Evo launched. The OS was very nice, the problem was they had no apps or to be clear they didn’t have the apps that I needed so I went to Android. HP still hasn’t figured out how to get developers there and without apps the OS is bound to fail. Windows Phone 7 in 6 months has already outpaced WebOS in number of apps when Palm had a 2 year or so head start. Android doesn’t have a lot of tablet apps yet either but it seems much more likely that a developer would alter the app they already created to fit on a tablet screen than they would to create an entirely new app. I’m not a developer so I don’t know whether one is actually easier than the other but it seems like it would be (using my Jon Kyl reasoning if any of you watch the daily show)

    Technology begets a system of positive feedback; developers go where the consumers are, consumers go where the apps are. It becomes very difficult to overcome this once you are in the “loser” category which I feel WebOS is in, they have a few dedicated fans but the real movement is in Android and iOS.

    Blackberry has already started to steal some of WebOS’ designs with the windows so I expect Android and others will as well so eventually that differentiator will be gone. WebOS should follow Blackberry’s lead and incorporate Android apps to entice consumers which will in turn maybe get developers to start making useful apps there.

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    1. Totally fair critique, and I share your sentiments and experience: I bought a Palm Pre on day one and gave up after 8 months due to the lack of apps and/or the appeal of apps on other platforms. But there were other issues that kept webOS from succeeding: limited carrier partnership didn’t help sales and without sales, developers won’t take notice. I can’t see HP’s $1.2b investment going to waste but you’re correct in that they’ll have to entice developers.

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    2. In a fair world WebOS wouldn’t be in the ‘loser’ category. As an iOS user I consider it to be the best OS but not the best platform That being said, Android hasn’t even proven they’re relevant in the tablet market. The Touchpad has a better chance right now of being an an alternative to the iPad than Honeycomb with low Xoom sales.

      As it stands, now all of these companies are really just fighting over what’s left of a tablet market that Apple has created and currently owns and this is starting to look like the iPod dominance all over again. If so, then that’s trouble for everyone including Windows.

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      1. junkyardwillie Wednesday, April 13, 2011

        I wouldn’t say that the iPad has the market on lock yet. 14 million or so iPads sold is a fair number but that’s certainly not cornering a market, how many cell phones are sold a year? How many PCs? There are still a ton of consumers that haven’t picked up an iPad yet so the market is still very much open as far as I’m concerned.

        I feel like this is a bit of a different market than the iPod because Apple doesn’t control the content. The best part of the iPod, for me at least, was that I had all my music in iTunes stored nicely and then I just plugged in my iPod and moved content on and off easily. With the iPad, everything that makes it great is not from Apple. I use Stanza to read my ePub files, Goodreader for PDFs, Netflix to watch movies, I can play whatever games Angry Birds etc, all of these things will be able to be done equally as well on another OS as long as the developer makes the apps. Amazon, newspapers, Pandora, all of these different apps that make using the iPad fun aren’t tied down to Apple. If I bought a Creative Nomad in the early 2000s I couldn’t plug it in to my iTunes and transfer music, I had to manage my music another way for it which once you’re tied into iTunes was a no go for me. If I want to switch from an iPad to an Android I could do most of the stuff that I do on the iPad there without a problem plus I’d have Flash which is a bit annoying not having on the iPad (yes Netflix isn’t on Android yet but that’s really just about the only major app holdout that’s not on Android that I can think of).

        I feel Android has a bigger upper hand for the future because Google is all about the cloud, updates are done through over the air and you don’t have to work through another software program to move files on it, it has a file structure (I have an Evo so I assume the tablets work the same, I could be wrong). Apple, it appears, wants to keep their tablet attached to the hip of iTunes and frankly I think that is where the competition can beat them because a tablet isn’t an iPod you want it to be a bit more free from a computer, at least that is my experience using my iPad. I try to manage as much of my content through Dropbox so I don’t need to plug into iTunes but some apps still require it which is a hassle. So what was once a great differentiator in having iTunes for Apple is now a hindrance but it seems like they don’t realize it.

        Also the fact that Android has so many other manufactures making different tablets means its more likely that people will find a tablet that works best for them, ie one with a pen, one that is small, one that is big etc. With Apple it seems to be ‘you take what we give you and like it’. I think Apple might end up in a similar situation as the PC wars on this one with them being able to earn a lot more than anyone else in the tablet market because they own all the parts but that they will end up being the smaller rival in the market overall.

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      2. iPod’s were cheap single purpose devices, not platforms.

        their success in no way points to signs of iPad dominance.

        in fact, Apples history of not being able to hold a top spot in OS marketshare (MacOS, iPhone) proves more than anything else that it probably wont win the tablet market either.

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  2. HP and other iPad Challengers Face a Steep, Uphill Battle

    Hi, Kevin – good that HP’s webOS and UI are compelling. Along with Dell, Samsung and Sony, HP is among the brands “In the Hunt” (see http://j.mp/gPhXq7) – when consumers rank “brands most likely to consider for a tablet” and rate preference for those brands, Apple is in a class of its own (“Admired by All”). While well below Apple, among the 20+ PC and Mobile OEMs we examined, HP, Dell, Samsung and Sony are the next best positioned on consumer consideration and preference for Tablets.

    However, even these four “contenders” face significant hurdles. For HP, one of the key challenges will be demonstrating and convincing consumers that a new (to them) and unfamiliar OS is worth the risk. In immr’s just completed study, consumers rated the top 3 OS + App Store combinations (iOS, Android, and even Windows) well above the HP webOS + app store (by a 2:1 margin – see p. 6). To overcome these perceptions, HP must convince consumers that the TouchPad “package” – device + webOS + apps + accessories + price – is compelling and will continue to improve. This will require resources and concerted effort over time.

    For other PC and Mobile OEMs, the hurdles are even more significant (sans the OS issue). Consumers rate Acer, HTC and others even lower on consideration and preference (prompting us to put them in the “Can’t Rule Out” category), while Nokia and Sony Ericsson barely register in the “Long Shot” category. Blackberry, Motorola and LG are in the “Liked by Many” category, which could prove precarious as competition intensifies.

    These and other findings from immr’s Tablet Market Outlook study can be viewed at http://j.mp/gPhXq7.

    Dr. Phil Hendrix, immr and GigaOm Pro Analyst

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  3. “Watch this!”
    Famous last words of the redneck, if I recall correctly.

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    1. Considering I live in the sticks, it makes perfect sense then. ;)

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  4. HP / WEB OS should have partnered with Nokia and RIM to create a strong third eco-system to Apple and Android……The only worthwhile Tablet position available now is the leader of the Android pack.

    Who will that be?

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  5. Technically webOS is strong but that’s not enough to make it a commercial success in tablets on par with iOS or Android.

    Also, while criticisms of Android’s Honeycomb are fair, Om’s quoted statement is pretty silly. A hypothetical competitor is better than an actual competitor? These aren’t even available and the demo is of a buggy emulator. You can actually use an iPad2 or Xoom. The iPad2 has a big head start but the nearest competitor, in reality, is Android. Also, the user experience design of webOS was lead by Matias Duarte who now works on the Android team.

    Google’s infrastructure is why they’re able to keep up with (and often catch up to or beat) Apple. Google Earth and Google Maps on the Xoom put that Bing Map’s demo to shame. I’d assume MSFT pony’ed up some dough so HP would use Bing Maps. Apple beats Android on usability, design, and 3rd party apps. Google beats Apple on wireless updating/syncing/backup and integrated SaaS services like Gmail, Maps, Voice, Navigation, Calendar, Docs, etc. Point being they each have things they’re best at – what compelling difference does webOS have? Being kind of like iOS is not going to cut it.

    Could webOS be #3 in tablets? Personally I hope so. Blackberry is horrible and MSFT nonexistent. Could webOS be #1 or #2 – not a chance.

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  6. Unless they are going to offer Android app competibility too. I don’t see webOS getting much marketshare.

    Remember the last great OS that was completely lost in the competition due to wrong timing? Yeah I sure nobody remember BeOS.

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  7. The Pre looked great in demos too. In practice, it had performance problems and aside from a pretty face, it was kind of half baked (late for basic things like OpenGL support, etc.). The WebOS team is doing a remarkable job at making a competitive OS. From a design perspective, it’s clearly better than Android. However, as others have noted, it needs massive developer support to even play in the same league as iOS and Android. Being better than the competition alone isn’t enough. It didn’t help IBM’s OS/2 against Windows, nor did it help the Mac OS against Windows… even today. The reason Apple is on top today is because they changed the game. HP needs to change the game once again… just copying the leading competitor with a few minor differences isn’t enough.

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  8. HP should talk to Apple.

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  9. No; no more previews, betas, promises, leaks or ‘just you wait til the next release of Android’.

    Until there is a competitor to the iPad that is on the market, with a price tag and a complete list of shipped features and customer satisfaction ratings, there is nothing worth talking about.

    (Nothing against your post, Kevin, simply my sentiment about how the tech community is so easily hyped by what isn’t in customer’s hands).

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  10. Any iOS app can be ported on webOS using the PDK and some quick fixes, 95% of App Store is crap, the rest of 5% is already in webOS App Catalog. The rest is Apple/S.Jobs marketing.
    HP targets (much as RIM) the upper class of consumers being a business-orientated device.

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