The tablet market is a ruthless arena to play in. The arena is ruled by Apple and Google’s Android; Apple has the exclusivity and the most popular tablet and Google has the luxury of having saturated the market with numerous vendor creations, such as the Motorola Xoom, and Samsung’s Galaxy. Companies like RIM, the makers of the Blackberry Playbook, and HP’s TouchPad have serious uphill battles to remain relevant, and yesterday, HP announced the end of the HP TouchPad after only seeing a few weeks on the market.
Before going to far into the demise of the TouchPad, I want to provide a quick recent history of Palm and WebOS, which will underscore the tragedy that has fallen upon the TouchPad.
WebOS was developed by Palm, the once dominant PDA company; before being subjigated by Blackberry, Apple and Microsoft. Palm had fallen from glory because it wasn’t able to adapt quick enough to the swiftly growing demands of it’s user base, and soon found itself struggling to survive. WebOS was created as a ground up operating system to replace it’s PalmOS, and it made its appearance about two years ago (June 2009) with Palm’s entry into the smartphone arena, the Palm Pre. The phone, which initially met with praise, faltered soon after release. From my perspective, the first problem was the Pre was a Sprint exclusive, which limited it’s reach, and secondly, it was small and felt really cheap… Indeed, the design itself was quite lackluster, and even though it sported a slide out keyboard, it was smaller than the iPhone and it couldn’t escape the feel of a cheap plastic toy. To make matters worse, the cheap feel seemed to resonate with its quality and reliability which lead to a high rate of repair and return.
The big draw for the Pre was the operating system, WebOS. Back in 2009, WebOS was capable and touted multitasking, the ability to run multiple apps at the same time, something that Apple’s IOS iPhone could not do. WebOS also promised a more fair and welcoming development environment, but sadly the development community never really bought into it, and it was also around this time Google entered into the field with their Nexus One Android phone, and Apple released their 3GS version of the iPhone. The rest is history, the Palm Pre ultimately died out amid the competition, and Palm was acquired by HP in April of 2010. HP’s hopes were to utilize Palm’s expertise to bolster its own tablet ambitions, but it would be over a year before that would become a reality.
Fast forward to July 1, 2011. HP casually releases the HP TouchPad, powered by WebOS. Impressions and early reviews of the product were lackluster. The 9.7″ tablet was aiming to take on Apple’s iPad, but it really could only do this by price and the merits of WebOS. The physical device was nothing special, it looked like a plain black bezel slate in a sea of black bezel iPad wannabe’s. The price of the 16GB version was $399, cheaper than the iPad 2 by $100, but at this price, it competed with Android Tablets, such as the Acer Iconia, and Asus Transformer. So at this price point, HP had to pit the merits of WebOS to Android. Android has already had almost two years to season itself in the consumer market, and Android has two marketplaces, Google’s own marketplace and the Amazon App Store. There are an enormous number of apps available for Android. WebOS doesn’t compare, and it would need time to catch up. Alas, the Touchpad will probably not get the chance, since HP has already announced the end of the TouchPad.
In the end, the HP TouchPad was just too little too late, and for all the merits that WebOS might have brought to the table, there wasn’t anymore room for another exclusive tablet platform. IOS and Android dominate, and we can’t count Microsoft out, since they’re making a modest comeback with their Windows Phone 7 platform. The key here is Apple is the only Tablet maker that has the ability to be exclusive, because it can afford to be. Google already has excellent third party tablet makers crafting devices and Microsoft, although not in the tablet space yet, may soon follow with their own third party built devices. HP’s TouchPad, stood alone in this crowded space, and it was exclusive to HP, as far as I know, no other manufacturer was planning on making a WebOS tablet. Fortunately, the demise of the TouchPad doesn’t spell the end of WebOS, HP has commented that WebOS may still be used in other applications, so there may at least be a future the OS. Farewell TouchPad, we barely knew you.
Thanks for reading.