WebOS: So bad, so good.

By on October 17, 2011
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What happens when a good product gets into wrong hands.

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I’ve been playing around with the HP TouchPad for a few days now and would like to share my thoughts on it. This is the same tablet that went through the fire-sale in the US, selling for as low as US$99 (around AED 370.) At that price, it’s a sin to not buy the technology that powers the TouchPad. While we never got to experience the fire-sale, mainly because the tablet was never officially launched in the region, there were some good deals floating around- for e.g. jadopado.com was selling a 32GB unit for AED 750 during GITEX. However, that is not the focus of this blog- lets talk about the TouchPad and WebOS instead.

My out of the box experience with the TouchPad wasn’t really great. The unit felt incredibly slow- certainly a lot slower than either the iPad, the PlayBook or the many Honeycomb based tablets I have tested. It was so bad that at times, I would touch the screen and not know for a few seconds whether the tap had registered or not. I was pretty much ready to pack it and send it back.

But there was something about it that made be come back to it- maybe it was the beautiful interface or the way apps were always working in the background. So I started reading about tweaking it- talk about opening a Pandora’s box! If you are an enthusiast, you will get a kick out of the TouchPad. Other than the official HP App Store, you have something called Preware which lets you access a different kind of app store. If you know about Cydia for the iPhone, then you’ll feel right at home with the Preware.

There are many many patches available for the TouchPad that significantly improve your user experience. From disabling logging to overclocking the device, the community has managed to keep the TouchPad very much alive and kicking and has transformed it from the disappointing out-of-the-box experience that HP provides to something a lot more pleasant. While the OS is still not as fast as the others, it is at least responsive enough to not cause frustration.

The WebOS is quite a looker as well- all the way from the icons to the fonts that are used for just about everything. It’s all laid out very neatly. Animations for transitions are also simple and beautiful and the way all your accounts integrate into the system is awesome. You can simply input your Facebook, GMail, Skype accounts etc. and they show up at relevant places such as gallery, chats or calls. Sadly, twitter is not built-in, but this is not a review of WebOS so let me get to the point- WebOS is awesome as far as the ideas are concerned. Where it really fails is the way it’s implemented. It’s just not optimized.

I think if this product was given to a company that really cared, it could take off in a big way. HP not only did a disservice for it’s share holders by purchasing and then discarding WebOS in nine months, it also let the WebOS fans down. Had a company like Amazon or HTC bought Palm instead of HP,I honestly think that we would have see results that were quite different.


About

Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of tbreak.com and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

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