As a WebOS fan, I’ve been following the rise (kind of), abrupt and sudden fall, and finally the launch of the now defunct TouchPad by HP. I certainly wanted one when the product was launched, but felt them a little pricey. Then, came the sudden announcement that the product was killed a mere seven weeks into its life. At that point, I no longer desired one. Then, like a great mystery, the plot turned once again. Now, they were $99 and like an apparently very large portion of the US consumer market, I wanted one again. I was one of the unfortunate people caught in order limbo thinking I had one, only to have my order abruptly canceled a few days later.
So, here I am. On the outside looking in. I’m not going to use this space to rail on the shortsightedness and lack of vision by HP. That would just be too easy. Instead, I’ve read a fair amount of articles on why you should or should not buy one. There are a number of them out there for your reading pleasure, but I’ve especially got to thank Bill Palmer at Beatweek for his heavy handed post that thrashed the idea of buying a TouchPad altogether. I hope that a great many people read his article. It will make it that much easier for me to pick one up. In response to this post, I’m going to give you ten reasons why a $99 TouchPad is a great pickup (if you can get one)
By adding the Kindle App, you get more than a Kindle for less than the price of a Kindle. Email, browser, games, etc. That would probably be enough, but wait. There’s more………
A FREE 50GB of storage at box.net. That’s a $19.99 value that can be shared amongst your family.
Flash! Despite what they’d have you believe, HTML5 is not yet all the way here. So, when you are ready to lose Apple’s Interent training wheels, you can reach for ‘that other pad’ and experience the rest of the Internet. There are a lot of well done Flash sites out there. It would be a shame to miss some of them.
It’s a great way to un-tether from your computer. What do most people use their tablets for? Checking email, Twitter, Facebook, surfing the web, etc. The TouchPad does all of that.
WebOS is a great operating system. It is easy enough that all but the most dense among us will be able to start using it productively right away. Also, despite it’s limited lifespan in hardware, HP is still actively developing the operating system. They really want to license the os (good luck), but if need be, they will sell it. That would be a lot more difficult if they shuttered the project and fired all of the engineers that work on it.
The Android community is very actively working on a port. For the more technically inclined among us, you’ll be able to to run Android on some dandy hardware within the coming weeks. Where else are you going to find an Android tablet on this kind of hardware for $99? That’s right. Nowhere. For the even more geeky, there is an active project that’s porting Ubuntu Linux to the pad. Both the Android and Ubuntu projects are currently booting from a USB stick. Therefore, you could ultimately have your choice of three operating systems on the same hardware without any of them interfering with the others. Where else are you going to get that?
You are NOT running a big risk of getting a virus. This is just silly. Like I said before, the operating system is still actively being developed. Any security holes that would crop up will be addressed at least for the near term, and that’s all we’re really looking at here (see note 10). Additionally, WebOS is Linux. It springs from the same tree as the Android and is a close cousin to iOS. While not impervious to malware, because of the nature of Unix/Linux it’s just a lot harder to pull off and there’s just less malware out there for the platforms.
If you want to get your kids a netbook, this would make a nice alternative. There is a document editing app called Quick Office that comes with the TouchPad and Picsel Smart Office should be available within a few weeks. It’s a great machine for simple homework and research.
App developers are still actively writing apps for WebOS. It is true that many have jumped ship and some may never return, but the fact remains that HP will wind up selling about a million TouchPads before they close the books on it for good. That’s a million potential software buyers. Somebody is going to meet that market even if it’s only a niche. You won’t have the volume of apps that are available for the iPad or the Android tablets, but you WILL have options. The second part of this is, there WILL be accessories available. This pretty much matches my point above. A million devices is simply going to be too much for some manufacturers to resist. Going back to the days of Palm, WebOS fans are rabid and they will buy. With a million devices in the wild, there will be more WebOS fans.
The lifecycle of the TouchPad is going to be about the same as it will be for any other tablet. Apple already has an end of life in mind for the iPad and iPad 2. Don’t believe me? Ask any iPhone 3G owner how their phone is doing. Planned obsolescence will take the iPads out every two to three years. You’ll be tossing out your TouchPad about that same time. The only difference will be that you spent 1/5 to 1/8 for the TouchPad (assuming you are fortunate enough to land one for $99) and probably a lot less for apps over the course of that time.
The TouchPad may be discontinued, but it’s far from dead. It’s a limited life appliance just like all of the other tablets on the market. Spending $99 and using the device for two years will be money in your pocket. Two years from now, iPad and iPad 2 owners, as well as current Android tablet owners will be actively looking to replace their tablet with the latest and greatest just like you. The only difference is, you’ll be money ahead.
To Mr. Palmer, please write a few more scathing articles. You’ll be doing the rest of us a favor.
Apple has announced a sudden reversal in its development conditions for its mobile devices today. Back in April, Apple announced that the only development platform that could be used to create apps for its mobile devices was the Apple SDK (software development kit), which only runs on a Mac. Fortunately, Cupertino has had a change of heart. It is now just fine to develop apps with other development platforms, provided the apps don’t download any code. Time will tell how badly the ‘no download’ condition will hamstring developers, but this is a move in the right direction.
Apple says that it has “listened to our developers”. I’m not quite sure who they were listening to back in April when they pulled the plug on third-party development platforms. Perhaps what they heard as they listened this time was the footsteps of developers heading to less restrictive platforms such as Android? Regardless, it’s a win for pretty much everyone. Adobe wasted no time in responding with glee because developers can now develop for iOS with Flash Professional CS5. Note, that doesn’t mean that Flash will work in your web browser on your iOS devices now, it just means more sales for Adobe’s development platform. Ultimately, it’s a win for users. More developers will be able to develop for iOS devices now, and that means more apps for users of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
In addition, Apple has announced they are publishing guidelines for how the app store review process works. This is designed to give developers a better idea of how the review process works and presumably a better shot at getting their apps approved.
It’s been rumored for quite a while that the next iPad will ship with a front facing camera and FaceTime. As of now that’s still, well, a rumor. However, the folks at 9to5 Mac and CrunchGear are posting the picture to the right and reporting it is a video chat debug in the next generation iPad firmware. It’s such an obscure shot that I can’t believe I’m even talking about it, but it would seem the next logical step in the iPad’s evolution. This brings a few question to mind. Upgrading my phone every couple of years seems fairly logical because they take a lot of abuse and they are subsidized to the point of being fairly inexpensive. What about the iPad? It’s a larger investment. How often will iPad owners be willing to upgrade? Also, with a slew of pads reportedly rushing to the market based on Android, WebOS, Windows 7, etc., is anyone going to beat Apple to the punch by including a front facing camera and video chat software? If they do, does it really matter? Is FaceTime already king? Apple has promised to release its protocol secrets for FaceTime. If they follow-up with that, we may see some wonderful interoperability with other devices. If they don’t release the protocols, will they release FaceTime to other platforms? So many questions from the possibility of simply adding a camera to a tablet.
What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to hear your comments.
NFC World is reporting that Apple has picked up NFC (Near Field Communication) expert Benjamin Vigier as their new mobile commerce product manager.
What’s that all about?
Near Field Communication is close range wireless technology that allows two devices to transfer data at close range (about 10cm), which basically means you tap them together to move information. Apple’s hiring of Vigier along with a fistful of NFC patent applications would indicate that Apple is looking to add this technology to a future iPhone, perhaps even the next iPhone. TechCrunch is reporting that Apple is already testing hardware from NFC hardware leader NXP.
What does that mean to me?
Short term, it should mean that you’ll be able to pay by tap and go with your phone at Apple partners through your iTunes account. Of course, we’d imagine that the Apple Store would be first in line. Go in, grab your new MacBook Pro, fire up the checkout application on your phone, tap your phone on a pad at the sales counter, and walk away. The technology could be used anywhere from coffee shops and newspaper stands to big box retail to about anything you can buy with a credit card. People could exchange business cards with a simple phone tap.
Longer term, imagine smart shopping carts that cross items off your list as you put them in the cart. How about avoiding the lines and tapping your cart to checkout? I would imagine it will take some convincing to get retailers to start ripping out their checkout counters, but that’s the kind of stuff that is possible with NFC.
Apple won’t be the first to bring NFC to a mobile phone. There are already a handful of phones that are equipped with the technology. But, Apple will bring a ease of use to the equation and some big backing. With 150 million iTunes accounts, the momentum should be there to get retailers on board. Of course, you can expect Android and the rest of the phone world to step it up as well.
Personally, I’m not excited about paying by phone. I don’t find paying by credit/debit card or cash to be an excruciating process. NFC should be faster, but by how much? If I have to pull up the app on my old 3G, it could actually be slower. However, this is the future and I do see some other interesting uses for the technology. If you embrace it, be sure to check out my post, Personal Insecurity and lock down your phone.
We spend a lot of time talking about avoiding viruses, phishing scams, and laptop security. These things are all very important. But, if you own a smartphone, chances are, you’ve got a much bigger security risk in your hands. Consider how easy it is to lose your phone or have it stolen. It’s compact and fits neatly into the palm of your hand, or a bad guy’s hand. It’s easily set down and easily walked away from. It’s easy to pull from a pocket or purse. It’s easy to have knocked off of your belt in a crowded area. In short, it’s easy to be separated from your mobile phone.
So, what’s so bad? I call my carrier and they lock the phone right? Well, kind of. Part of that depends on how quickly you can get to your carrier and just because they can clamp down on somebody sending calls out, can they stop them from using WiFi? Let’s say you give a thief just one hour. What can they do? Well, if you store your username and password in your web browser or apps and you haven’t locked your phone, they can do plenty. People are doing real work on their mobile devices these days. As an example, let’s suppose that I stored my credentials in all of my apps, then left my phone on the table at a restaurant. I know, shame on me for even having it out at a place of dining! What could you do with my phone? Well, depending on the apps I have installed, you could take all of your friends to the movies on me, drop in on my brokerage account, drain my checking account and saving account, wreak havoc on all of my social networks, take over my satellite receiver, make changes to my mobile phone account, and worst of all you could run amok on this blog! That’s some serious damage pretty fast! All of those are just examples. Depending on what apps you are running, the damage to you could be much worse. We haven’t even talked about storing your username and password to your most frequented websites or that all of your contact’s information such as work and mobile numbers has just been given up!
So, what to do? Well, first, take an inventory. What apps have you installed? What websites are in your history and your list of favorites? What is your risk if your phone is lost or stolen? If you are uncomfortable in the least at that thought, you have a couple of options. First option is just to not save credentials. Don’t allow any of your apps or the websites you visit to remember your login information. That won’t make your friends any happier when some creep is calling them on their mobile phone because they got it from your phone, but that’s your call. If you absolutely must store information, you’ll need to set a password for unlocking your phone. This is going to be less convenient than not storing your credentials because you will have to enter that code to use your phone for anything, including simply making a phone call (who does that?). There are multiple levels here. Some phones will only let you enter a four digit numeric pin. Better than nothing, but for the more paranoid (used in a good way here) some phones allow you to use numbers and letters. Using a combination of numbers, uppercase letters, and lowercase letters makes the password harder to crack. In addition, some phones allow you to hard lock the phone after a certain number of failed login attempts, which means the phone will no longer accept a password attempt and is therefore useless. The iPhone has a setting that will erase the phone after 10 failed password attempts. Both of these options mean you will want to backup your phone to your computer very regularly. If your phone is locked or erased, chances are it’s going to end up in a dumpster somewhere and not back in your hands. If you want full on paranoia, opt for a solid password using a combination of numbers and letters, lock down or erase after a number of failed attempts, and don’t store your credentials in apps or the web browser. That is certainly not going to be the most convenient phone to use, but if you do lose it, you’ll be able to breath a little easier. You will have to find the level of balance that is most comfortable for you. Just don’t make it easy for the bad people. You could just drop the data plan altogether and not worry about it, but that would be just icky! And of course getting a smartphone without a data plan is becoming increasingly difficult.
Microsoft’s biggest customer, HP has announced that they will not be using Windows Phone 7 or Android in their smartphones. While bypassing Android is no surprise given HP’s purchase of Palm, the Windows 7 snubbing will be sure to raise some eyebrows. HP Executive VP Todd Bradley reported during an interview on CNBC. That while they will not be using Microsoft’s operating system in their smart phones, they will be using both Windows 7 and WebOS (from the purchase of Palm) in future tablets. I’m not quite sure how long that arrangement is going to last considering how badly HP wants WebOS to compete in the smartphone and tablet arena, but it’s going to happen at least temporarily.
With HP’s deep, deep pockets, look for them to invest a considerable amount of capital into trying to make the smartphone market a three horse race with Apple and Google and themselves as the major players. While Microsoft has confirmed that some large hardware makers such as LG and Samsung will be producing phones with their operating system on it, they haven’t seemed to generate much excitement in their software.