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HP’s False Step

When Hewlett-Packard (HP) cancelled the HP Touchpad in early 2011, they effectively terminated a wonderfully innovative operating system called WebOS.

Now, a year later, it seems that their decision might have been executed prematurely. The tablet market has since become saturated with an influx of new devices.

On the leading edge of innovation and performance standards is the iPad, developed by Apple Inc. On the smaller end of the scale stands multiple Android variants by Samsung, Asus, and even Amazon.

Unfortunately, what these devices don’t possess is a unique quality differentiating one from the next. This is where the HP Touchpad stood above the bar, in that its style and abilities made it an instant hit among multi-taskers and out-of-box thinkers.

WebOS uses a system called Cards. Each app shows up as a medium-sized rectangle on your home screen when in use. You can run multiple apps and view several cards beside one another, or even stack them upon the next. To close open apps you slide the card up and out of the screen. Simple and intuitive.

Unfortunately, the HP Touchpad was introduced during a tumultuous period of dismal electronic sales and lackluster marketing at Hewlett-Packard, and their former CEO, Leo Apotheker, scrapped the WebOS platform. Subsequently, he was fired and replaced by former eBay CEO, Meg Whitman. Inheriting a chaotic mess, Whitman made a decision to continue the WebOS platform and attempt to save what Apotheker had tried to destroy.

HP sold their entire stock of Touchpads in a “Firesale” at prices less than $400 off their debut listing. Whitman then opened up the platform to outside developers and provided an open-source license for the operating system. With this new strategy, WebOS became relevant once again, and lucky owners of the now extinct tablet can expect updates and possibly new hardware in the future.

Perhaps the Touchpad came out ahead of its time, or maybe it was a tad-bit too innovative with its approach. Then again, the marketing campaign for the tablet was atrocious, and likely contributed to the Touchpad’s obscurity among competing devices.

One of the Touchpad’s neat features was its ability to access instant tech support through a core app, allowing you to chat with an HP representative straight from the tablet. Another was the HP Moviestore that never really developed to its full potential. Email was perfect for multitasking, books on the Kindle app looked superb, and music played nicely through its Beats Audio speakers. The Touchpad could also be charged wirelessly.

Overall, the tablet felt crisp and professional. It’s unfortunate that more consumers didn’t catch on to the Touchpad’s potential. Instead, many who purchased the tablet opted to install variants of Android through hacking methods, since they believed WebOS to be dead. Perhaps this new open-source version of WebOS will revive the innovative thinking that the original Touchpad tried to present consumers.

If not, we’ll continue waiting for an operating system that truly performs heads and tails above the rest.



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