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[Editor’s Note: HP at press time disclosed plans to kill of its TouchPad tablet PC.]
The HP TouchPad began shipping to market to mediocre reviews, and it looked like it faced early trouble when HP began offering aggressive price cuts just a few weeks later. HPsoon shipped a major software update that the company said fixed a raft of early problems.
The bad news for HP is that first impressions are often lasting impressions. More bad news: this software update didn’t fix nearly enough of the TouchPad’s issues to allow it to yet compete with Apple or Samsung in the tablet space.
First things first: HP has delivered a tablet with two important functions that competitors lack: native printer support (for most HP printers), and native VPN support. These are not minor features for many enterprises, and on this basis alone the HP TouchPad deserves significant consideration for many enterprises; they also play into strengths developed over years by its Imaging and Printing Group and its HP ProCurve properties. In fact, TouchPad is such a natural fit with its printing lineup that it would not be surprising if HP began offering enterprise bundles with TouchPads and printers in the future. Value-added resellers, in particular, should keep this in mind.
But the tablet itself is bulkier than its competitors, even with a display that’s four hundredths of an inch smaller than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. It’s not that it’s a few ounces heavier than others, either: the TouchPad has been constructed without as even of a distribution of weight as the Galaxy Tab 10.1 or iPad 2, meaning it feels more awkward to hold or carry around. In addition, the TouchPad’s black case smudges way too easily and deeply and that, frankly, creates a terrible eye sore of fingerprints and ugly streaks. That might be OK for working inside a warehouse or data center, but it would be just ghastly for sales calls or professional presentation.
Beyond the hardware is the software: Palm’s webOS. While the OS itself is sleek, elegant and, for many, more intuitive than other mobile OSes, webOS is the technology equivalent of all dressed up and nowhere to go. There are few decent apps available on the platform. HP inexcusably waited until right after the TouchPad’s launch before opening its SDK up to developers broadly. Holding back general release of the WebOS 3.0 SDK for as long as it did was a major strategic blunder and shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the critical role apps play in determining a mobile device’s success.
Forget the bulky design, forget the smudges, forget the fact that the on-board camera only works with one available app and it doesn’t shoot stand-alone photos or video. HP’s demonstration, by holding its SDK so close to the vest for so long, shows that it just doesn’t get the market as well as it needs to in order to compete at this stage.
It was a tough call to decide whether this meets a cost-and-complexity standard, but frankly it does. There are still enough enterprises and small businesses that rely on printing capability and VPN security that moving to the HP TouchPad means safety, security, reliability and seamlessness in those areas—meaning cost and complexity are held at bay there.
Technical Stars: 3
Channel Stars: 5
Price: $549 for 32 GB (list)
NEXT: Toshiba Thrive