So, we’ve had more than a week to play around with our HP Touchpads now, and the end result is I’m even angrier than I was before about HP destroying Palm. The Touchpad, while by no means perfect, is still a really cool little device. It does most of the things we expect of it. It’s nicely designed. It’s fun to use. It shows… Promise.
In the past few days I’ve spent a lot of time browsing on it. I’ve cleared through email, edited Word and Excel documents, played Angry Birds with Mathias, watched movies, and caught up on my YouTube subscriptions. The Touchpad has handled all of those tasks extremely well, too the point that the lapsed web developer in me started wondering if I could write apps for this thing. (I installed Homebrew, started reading some of the developer documentation, and then told myself to stop. Because, you know, I probably have better things to do than write applications for a dying platform.) Importing movies from DVD was a pain in the ass to figure out, likely because HP didn’t want to make it easy (“Use the HP Movie Store!”), but now that I know how to do it, it’s a snap. Doing so can allow the special, if somewhat melancholy, irony of watching Pixar movies on a Touchpad.
Many of the common criticisms of the Touchpad are valid. It can be a bit laggy at times. The number of apps available is pretty small, and the quality of those apps sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. But it’s just good enough, in that unique HP way, that one could image how it could be perfect with a few tweaks. HP seems to have a gift for coming up with great ideas and classy designs, only to cheap out on the build or materials, or push out the product before it’s fully baked. The Touchpad is a case example of trying to swing for the fences, but doing so with a wiffle bat, because, you know, plastic is cheaper than wood.
It’s a true clutching failure from the jaws of victory kind of situation. With a better build quality, a moderately lower price than the iPad, and a clear Microsoft-style commitment to the platform (to encourage app developers), HP could have had a competitor on its hands. It could have started off as the Hyundai Genesis of the tablet world—not the leader, but a legitimate competitor that forces people to take the product and the platform seriously. Instead they put out an Elantra—a fine, car, sure—and priced it like a Mercedes. The results were completely predictable.
Maybe Léo Apotheker has some of his friends and relatives short-selling HP stock. That seems as reasonable of an explanation for this fiasco as any.