Why Should Anyone Buy the HP TouchPad Instead of the Apple iPad?
My review of HP's TouchPad is up over at TIME.com. My take is pretty much the same one as the consensus of the crowd that's published reviews tonight: very nice interface, aging hardware (even though it's a brand new device), too many bugs, and too few apps. And definitely not as good as the iPad 2.
Last week, I blogged that for the time being, every new tablet introduction is about one fundamental question: "Why should somebody buy this instead of the iPad." If the TouchPad doesn't take off -- at least without significant software updates-it'll be because it failed to provide a coherent answer. And that raises a whole bunch of other questions.
Is the form factor a fatal flaw?
Like I said in my review it kind of screams "I was designed before the iPad 2 came out." It's strikingly chunkier and heavier than that tablet and its Android doppelganger, Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1. But the TouchPad isn't unpleasant to hold or look at, and I don't think its relative bulk is a crippling issue all by itself. Think of it this way: if the TouchPad were as thin and light as the iPad 2 -- or even a wee bit thinner and lighter -- it wouldn't be getting raves. And if the iPad 2 were exactly as thick and heavy as the TouchPad, it would still be very, very successful.
How about the bugginess?
Huge problem. Huge problem that's eerily reminiscent of issues with Motorola's Xoom and BlackBerry's PlayBook, both of which shipped with glitchy software. If a tablet misbehaves as much as the TouchPad does, it doesn't really matter how good it is in other respects. And it's a bigger issue with tablets than with most devices: we're used to PCs being horribly unreliably, but the iPad, whatever you think of it otherwise, is uncannily reliable. The good news: at least HP has a chance to make the TouchPad much better through a software update.
Should the TouchPad have been less like the iPad? I mean, it has the same screen and seems to cater to the same audience.
I like the TouchPad's screen. I don't think it's the only size that will work for a tablet, but it's a good one, and I've come to the conclusion that tablets don't want widescreens. (They're too skinny in portrait orientation.) Again, try to envision reviews of the TouchPad if it were a different size. They'd be no more favorable.
Is there anything about the TouchPad that flirts with providing an argument for buying it over the iPad?
Well, it's not the hardware or the app selection. But WebOS's user interface remains excellent; preferring it to the iPad is entirely rational. But HP just lost the opportunity to come out with a generally pleasing WebOS tablet well before Apple starts selling iOS 5 iPads and other companies have Android Ice Cream Sandwich ones.
Does the TouchPad's thin collection of apps doom it?
If so, that's a sad thing to contemplate, since every tablet based on a new platform is going to debut with a thin collection of apps. I'd hate to think that even trying to come up with new platforms was pointless. But I don't think it is. If a platform has everything else going for it, developers will come. (Remember when there were scarcely any Android apps?) And WebOS wouldn't need hundreds of thousands of programs to do just fine.
Was HP just too late?
Gosh, I don't think so. I hope not. I'd hoped that HP was making a smart move by not rushing the TouchPad out the door; having used it, I now think it should have moved even more slowly. David Pogue's sentiments about the TouchPad are mostly similar to mine, except that he calls it "very late." I happen to think that we're still very early in the history of smartphones, which would mean that the tablet industry is a mere newborn.
So what should HP do next?
Fix the TouchPad's bugs. Round up some big-name apps. Move quickly to release a next-generation TouchPad. Put WebOS on more devices. Be patient. Repeat.
What are the chances that someone will come up with -- well, not an iPad killer, but another tablet which just about everyone acknowledges is both very nice and quite successful?
Very high, I think. At this point, though, I'm coming to the conclusion that it may take awhile, and it won't be any tablet that smacks of first-generationalism. Some company will accomplish it on its second try. Or maybe its third. Right?