HP TouchPad Built for Business?

By  Martha Walz — July 05, 2011

Last Friday, HP launched its TouchPad tablet with the webOS operating system. When it was first announced in February, the TouchPad + webOS combination was touted to be a probable game-changer in the tablet space. Reviewers had a chance to get their hands on demo units ahead of Friday’s launch. Read on to see if the TouchPad lived up to expectations.
First impressions
“Tablets. There is the iPad, and there is everything else,” states Matt Buchanan of Gizmodo. “The TouchPad is the first tablet that could be truly something more than everything else.”
This statement sums up the feelings of most of the TouchPad reviewers. As we mentioned in our preview of the TouchPad back in February, there were high hopes for the TouchPad and what it could possibly accomplish in the tablet space. Buchanan, for one, wasn’t disappointed.
“The TouchPad gets it,” he continues. “The big ideas, like Synergy (HP's webOS cloud service) and the card interface, make sense. The details, like the seamless connection between the TouchPad and Pre3 smartphone, make sense. That puts it way ahead of everything else, at least conceptually.”
“The TouchPad is a good product,” agrees Sarah Epps of Forrester Research. “The hardware is solid—HP didn’t skimp on the screen quality—and the device feels solid and well-balanced to hold, similar to the first-generation iPad. The webOS software is more polished than Honeycomb, and overall the TouchPad is a better product than any Android tablet on the market.”
But not all of the reviewers were completely impressed. “The TouchPad delivers smooth and snappy performance on everything from games to Web browsing, but it's not without problems,” states Casey Johnston of Ars Technica. “It's hefty and thick, it only has 300 native apps, and many app essentials are nonexistent or available only as phone version emulations.”
“In my view, despite its attractive and different user interface, this first version is simply no match for the iPad,” says Walt Mossberg of All Things D. “It suffers from poor battery life, a paucity of apps and other deficits…[However] despite these problems, in many ways the TouchPad is a joy to use.”
Business advantages
The multitasking handling capability of webOS was thought to be its number one advantage over existing tablets, especially for business users who are likely to be switching between several open business apps simultaneously.
“You would almost think that webOS had been designed for tablets from the very beginning,” explains Gizmodo’s Buchanan. “It feels more native to tablets than any other software on any other tablet, despite being an almost exact translation of the phone interface. Cards may be the perfect metaphor for multitasking. Notifications are excellent.”
“After working with the TouchPad for a week, I’m ready to declare it the iPad’s stiffest competition yet for individual business professionals, who currently represent a quiet but very large portion of the iPad user base,” states Jason Hiner of ZDNet.
“For those who want the portability of a tablet but the work ethic of a desktop, the TouchPad has raised the bar on productivity.
“For business professionals intent on productivity, there’s a lot to like about the HP TouchPad,” Hiner continues. “The e-mail and multitasking capabilities alone are enough to give it an edge over the iPad. And, we haven’t even talked about the TouchPad’s ability to print (especially to HP printers)—another important asset for some professionals. The expanded Web browsing capabilities are huge, too. It allows the TouchPad to access a lot of sites (Flash and others) that aren’t accessible from the iPad. This can open the door to Web-based business apps and other important sites.”
Apps, apps, apps
Although the TouchPad launched with only 300 apps available, HP is committed to making the TouchPad experience the best it can be, focusing on quality over quantity. And with the announcement that HP will be licensing webOS to other OEMs, the number of webOS app developers is bound to increase.
“With webOS, HP gets more control over the total product experience,” explains Forrester Research’s Epps. “We don’t yet know the extent of webOS licensing to other OEMs—if reports of OEMs like Samsung licensing webOS are true, that could substantially increase the install base of the platform and its appeal to app developers.”
“HP has been hosting developer training events in cities across North America and hundreds of eager developers have turned out,” explains Zach Epstein of BGR. “What’s more, because webOS uses programming tools and languages that are very familiar to a wide range of developers such as HTML5 and JavaScript, the learning curve is far more favorable than it is with other mobile platforms.”
Looking to the future
Despite its shortage of apps and the lukewarm reception from reviewers, the TouchPad has a bright future. But is it an iPad killer?
Not according to All Things D’s Mossberg. “At least for now, I can’t recommend the TouchPad over the iPad 2.”
However, the TouchPad might be the best bet for business users who want to replace their laptops.
“With its notification system, multitasking, and smartphone/tablet interaction, the TouchPad is designed to help…knowledge workers be (nearly) as productive on a tablet as they are on a laptop or desktop,” says ZDNet’s Hiner. “All in all, these productivity improvements make the TouchPad the most effective laptop replacement of any of the current tablets.”
But most reviewers were left wanting more. “Today, the TouchPad is a solid tablet that definitely exhibits what I have come to call tabletitis,” explains BGR’s Epstein. “It is a jack of all trades, master of none, that shows tons of potential but isn’t quite there yet. Like most other tablets on the market right now, I’m far more excited about the device’s potential than I am about the product I have in my hands today.”
“The bottom line: In 2011, the TouchPad has a shot to be the No. 2 tablet…far behind the iPad but ahead of RIM and Android competitors,” explains Epps of Forrester Research. “In 2012, the game changes with Windows 8. If webOS survives the platform wars beyond that, HP will have an important asset to differentiate itself from other OEMs and to compete in the post-PC era.”


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