While Cisco Systems is looking to make tablet-market waves with its Cius, Hewlett-Packard is making headlines with its TouchPad. The Wi-Fi version of the HP Touchpad will hit U.S. stores on July 1, and reviews are already pouring in.
The Touchpad is HP's first webOS-powered tablet. HP acquired the webOS mobile operating system when it snapped up Palm last year. The tablet will sell with either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage for $499.99 and $599.99, respectively.
The reviews so far are mixed. Some are saying HP released the TouchPad too early. Others are calling its performance sluggish. Still others are saying there aren't enough apps in HP's app store to compete. On the upside, the multitasking is a hit, the webOS implementation is finding praise, and the hardware is getting a nod.
"The TouchPad is the latest entrance into the tablet wars, the first product that HP has delivered since the Palm acquisition nearly a year ago. The product itself is very nice. It certainly is very competitive and compelling from a hardware perspective, as is what HP has done with webOS," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner. "The challenge is to build out the ecosystem and really execute on the marketing strategy."
Why Not an iPad?
With webOS, HP TouchPad users can tap into a true multitasking experience, gain access to the web, get audio playback with stereo speakers and Beats Audio technology, and find information on the tablet or in the cloud using a feature called Just Type.
The device also offers integrated access to the user's information with HP Synergy, and HP's exclusive Touch to Share capability for sharing web addresses between an HP TouchPad and compatible webOS phones. HP plans to partner with AT&T to introduce a connected version of the HP TouchPad later this summer.
"The raw ingredients are all there, but it all comes down to ecosystem and execution," Gartenberg said. "At the end of the day, they are going to have to answer the same question that every other tablet vendor that's come to market has had to answer: Why should I buy this instead of an iPad?"
Will HP License webOS?
HP may drive more developers to its webOS if it licenses the software. Bloomberg is reporting that HP CEO Leo Apotheker is exploring the idea: "We are talking to a number of companies," he said in Beijing, declining to elaborate. "I can share with you that a number of companies have expressed interest. We are continuing our conversations."
But Gartenberg isn't holding his breath. As he sees the situation, it's not clear how HP would license or to whom. He said tech firms haven't succeeded in attempts to license their software and then compete with their licensees in hardware.
"Apple tried it twice. Nokia tried it. Palm tried it. You end up in a situation where if your licensees do better than you, that's not good, and if you do better than your licensees, they are unhappy," Gartenberg said. "So it's a tricky situation to license, and what HP has said so far is kind of ambiguous. We'll have to see how it translates."