The TouchPad, HP’s first webOS-based device for the tablet market, hit U.S. stores Friday.
The dual-core 9.7-inch tablet looks very similar to the iPad — the original iPad anyway — but has specs that are more closely aligned with the iPad 2, Galaxy Tab 10.1 or Motorola Xoom.
The big differentiator for the TouchPad is HP’s webOS operating system. The crown jewel from HP’s acquisition of Palm, webOS has always seemed like the most tablet-friendly mobile OS on the market. HP released videos earlier this month showing off webOS on the TouchPad, and these demos left us impressed.
The first crop of tech reporters and bloggers have had their time with the TouchPad, and early reviews are decidedly mixed. Most reviewers praise webOS and compliment the UI and UX experience, as well as the gesture controls. When it comes to the quality of the native software and features like built-in video chat using Skype, the TouchPad receives rave reviews.
Where the device gets dinged by most reviewers is in its overall speed (something that most reviewers seem to attribute to the software rather than the hardware, which according to the specs should be powerful enough), some niggling bugs with webOS itself, a small third-party app selection and the price. The HP TouchPad is selling for the same price that Apple is selling the iPad 2 ($499 for a 16GB Wi-Fi only model, $599 for a 32GB unit).
HP isn’t the only tablet maker to struggle with competing with Apple on price; Android tablet makers like Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Asus and Toshiba are also struggling with varying levels of success to meet or beat Apple’s price.
Still, the overall impression from most of the major reviews is that HP has some great ideas, that given enough time and developer support, could easily develop into something wonderful. Android tablets are having a hard time gaining traction and RIM has failed to really deliver on its promises for the Playbook, which means that despite a late entry, HP might have a shot at placing in the race.