HP TouchPad Looks Promising, but Will Buyers Wait for It?

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-02-10

HP TouchPad Looks Promising, but Will Buyers Wait for It?

SAN FRANCISCO-You never know how significant a product launch event can be. Fresh in mind was a big one Feb. 9 here at the Fort Mason waterfront for HP's two new webOS-driven smartphones and the TouchPad tablet PC.

This might turn out to be one of the most important launches in HP's long and celebrated history because it brings the corporation into the 21st century with its connected mobile devices. Or it could be the introduction of a real flop; an example of an event in the latter category was the Jan. 5, 2010, big-news launch of Google's first smartphone-the Nexus One.

Did that first Google phone ever crash and burn! Google shelved it by April, and the first ones were seen being resold by early buyers for $100 or less a few weeks later. Two biggest problems: The touch screen didn't work very well (too many repeated actions needed) and Google decided to sell it online only.

Most people want to have a phone in their hands to determine whether they like its look, feel and performance before they invest in it. For the record, Google and the manufacturer, HTC, learned some lessons and made improvements, and a new and improved Nexus is now on the market. We'll see if it sells.

New HP Devices Appear to Be Winners

Back to present day. HP's Pre3 and Veer smartphones look like successful instruments, and so does the new TouchPad. The biggest news certainly was the introduction of the TouchPad, which embodies a lot of capabilities the Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy and other tablets simply cannot touch at this time.

For example, it will sport a videocam, a full suite of office productivity software and much better multitasking capability than any current competitor. It sports wonderful e-mail, photo/video and music (Beats Audio) capabilities. It is not relegated to one browser; it also supports Flash.

Sync-up with other devices will be easy; for example, to sync one of the phones with a TouchPad, all a user needs to do is touch the two devices together, and wow-they can share e-mail, video and other applications.

There's a long list of cool features that many people will like and want to buy.  See this slideshow for more details.

However, the TouchPad won't be available until summer 2011; that's quite awhile for people to wait. In the meantime, Apple will be out before that with its iPad 2, which is expected to include some-if not all-of the features noted above.

We're not even going to mention all the new Android tablets that also will be on store shelves by the time TouchPads come out.

HP Competing with Self

HP Competing with Itself

HP not only is competing with 80-plus other tablet PCs, but it also will be competing with itself. It was only in October 2010 that HP introduced its first Windows-based business-oriented tablet, the Slate 500, and soon it will have the TouchPad as an in-family competitor.

The Slate 500, which has a lot of good business features but garnered mixed reviews, turned out to not have the user-interface performance elegance (to say the least) of an iPad. Neither does the TouchPad, although it seems to be somewhat more responsive.

As a person who has tested all three devices (the TouchPad only very briefly, but long enough to register its look and feel), I did not experience a user interface nearly as smooth and responsive as Apple's. Frankly, I was hoping to, but HP/Palm isn't quite there yet. Of course, nobody else is at that level.

Touch performance was closer to the Slate's behavior, frankly. For example, when moving a document or Web page up and down the screen, or when making a document larger, the page slithers in sections like an accordion. That's not the way a new-gen interface should act-not with the smoothly moving, gold standard Apple UI helping sell millions of iPads each month.

Since there are still several months before TouchPads get into stores, perhaps the HP team can smooth it out a little. Overall, however, the device is an impressive one, and HP's Palm team should be congratulated.

Pricing will become a key factor when the TouchPad comes out. Apple's are bordering on expensive at $500 to $800; if HP can undercut those numbers by 20 percent or more, then the game will be on.

In summary, the TouchPad is a remarkably capable device and deserves a close look by anyone considering a tablet PC. But if you're already hooked on an iPad, you may be a difficult customer to sway.

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