Palm is undeniably the forefather of smartphones, and as it evolved, so too did its operating system. While it started off with its legacy Palm OS and licensed Microsoft's Windows Mobile over the years, the company wasn't resting on its laurels. By 2009, Palm unveiled webOS at the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Initial reactions towards the new platform was favorable, but unfortunately for Palm and its Palm Pre, it had a slow start and couldn't make a dent against stronger contenders from Google, Apple and Microsoft.
In the following year, HP acquired Palm, with the intent to incorporate the webOS platform into its lineup. This includes tablets, mobile devices and even printers And true to its intent, the company revealed its first three webOS devices back in February. One of which, was the much talked about HP TouchPad.
While the TouchPad did make an appearance during Mobile World Congress 2011, we were only given an eyes-on session with the webOS underneath its 9.7-inch display. Frankly, the real attraction is webOS 3.0, an update to the webOS platform specific for the tablet space. After a long wait, we managed to get some hands-on time with webOS, and here's our initial impressions.
At first glance, the Just Type feature might seem to be a universal search function, but it's more than that. The Just Type feature goes one step further and suggests applications that you want to launch in relation to the text. Third party applications, such as Twitter, can be linked to Just Type. As such, you can simply type and send out that string of text as a Twitter update.
Besides launching apps, Quick Actions are also incorporated into Just Type. This essentially lets you enter the required text into an application without launching it. For example, you can type a quick reminder, and tag it into your Tasks via Quick Actions without opening the Task app.
Multi-tasking is a core focus for webOS, and this is visually represented by its cards. Each card is an app running in the background, and from what we've seen, you can rearrange background apps and stack them together for easy referencing. Multi-tasking is also made easy with gestures, by flicking upwards to reveal background apps and closing them, This might sound very similar to what we saw on the BlackBerry PlayBook, but remember, webOS existed before RIM brought the BlackBerry Tablet OS to fruition.
Signing in to multiple accounts can be a chore. Accessing different apps just to read the latest news feeds or emails makes it even worse. This is an issue that has been answered by many vendors, and seen in webOS via the Synergy feature.
Synergy lets you sign in to your Facebook, Google, Microsoft Exchange, LinkedIn, and Yahoo! accounts. In doing so, you get one single calendar that lists events from your various accounts, and a message window that blends your text and instant messages together. Contacts are also given further updates, including data from your Facebook friends.
According to HP, multiple calendars shared under one Google account are also visible, and you can easily color code or hide calendars that aren't relevant for the moment.
The biggest question that comes to mind, is the apps ecosystem. The HP App Catalog now stands at 8,000 apps strong, out of which 2,000 will be available in Asia. For now, 150 apps are available for the HP TouchPad.
HP recognizes that for its webOS devices to succeed, the apps ecosystem has to be enhanced further. Leveraging on its strong portfolio, HP provides developers with the option to develop for any of its 100 million devices that are shipped worldwide. Furthermore, HP has also shared how developers are able to port their existing apps easily onto webOS. One such example is Rovio Mobile. Using the port development kit provided by HP, the app developer managed to optimize its popular Angry Birds game onto the webOS platform in two days. Nonetheless, this is subjective to the complexity of the codes within the app, and might not be applicable to all developers.
For now, what was spotted on App Catalog are the usual popular apps, such as Angry Birds. Social networks are a definite inclusion, such as Facebook while Evernote covers the productivity portion. The company wasn't able to comment on their plans to include native Twitter or Google+ support for webOS, though there are a wide variety of third party apps that will perform the same functions.
To get the best out of the webOS experience, the mobile platform will be featured on HP's first webOS tablet, the HP TouchPad. Based on our short experience with the unit, it's safe to say that the TouchPad is one of the few tablets to look out for. Besides the earlier mentioned webOS 3.0, the TouchPad will feature some impressive hardware specifications. This includes a Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core processor running at 1.2GHz, and a 9.7-inch display with 1024 x 768 pixels resolution.
Weighing in at 740g, the TouchPad brings with it solid build quality, while its curved borders are a sharp contrast from other tablets such as the Apple iPad 2's tapered edges. During the brief demonstration, we were also treated to the audio enhancement by Beats Audio, which packed quite a punch with its stereo speakers.
Accessories will also play a huge role in its lineup, such as the Touchstone charging dock. This allows you to charge the TouchPad wirelessly by placing the the tablet onto the Touchstone dock, and even activate its Exhibition mode that brings up a slideshow of your photos or a calendar listing.
According to HP, the TouchPad will be available in a 16GB or 32GB variant, both supporting Wi-Fi connectivity only. As of now, HP isn't able to comment on the availability of a 3G version.
Pricing is fixed at S$699 and S$799 for the 16GB and 32GB versions respectively. Pre-order will be available from 27th July to 11th August, with the TouchPad available through authorized dealers from 12th August. The HP TouchPad will also have a special promotion for Singapore buyers in the month of August. A free case will be given for every HP TouchPad 16GB purchases, and a free case plus a HP wireless keyboard will be given for every HP TouchPad 32GB purchase.
Update: HP has just announced a revised launch price for the TouchPad, starting from S$599 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version. Customers who have pre-ordered the TouchPad from 27th July during the National Day promotion will receive a free TouchStone Charging dock. For more information, click here.
Key highlights of the HP TouchPad
|HP Touchstone Charging Dock||S$109.90|
|HP TouchPad Wireless Keyboard||S$79.90|
|HP TouchPad Case||S$49.90|
|HP TouchPad International Power Adaptor||S$39.90|
|Beats Solo Headphones||S$420.00|