Hewlett-Packard's webOS tablet has arrived. The TouchPad faces a number of challenges, including lack of apps and entertainment content and countering the momentum of the iPad. Still, there are plenty of people interested in tablets that aren't sold on the iPad and are waiting for something that's more productive and not tethered the Apple ecosystem. For them, the TouchPad could be the answer. This is a tablet that gets a lot of things right for professionals and power users. Here are the top three.
You can watch the five-minute video where I demonstrate the TouchPad's top features, or you can read the full transcript below.
Transcript of video
The long-anticipated HP TouchPad has arrived and, of course, the number one question everyone has is how it stacks up against the Apple iPad.
I'm Jason Hiner of TechRepublic, and instead of telling you the areas where the TouchPad has advantages over the iPad, I figured it would be more useful to show you. There are three big ones and that's what we're going to talk about today.So let's get to it.Number 1: Multi-tasking, especially in email
This one shouldn't come as much of a surprise. If you're familiar the Palm Pre smartphone, then you know that one of the biggest strengths of webOS is multitasking. Most mobile operating systems — including Apple's iOS — struggle in this department because of the constraints of smartphone screens, battery life, and ARM processors. However, webOS does it better than any of them with a UI that makes it quick and easy to flip between apps and close apps, a notification system that provides at-a-glance information for messaging, calendars, and system info, and the ability to quickly interact between multiple apps or multiple windows within the same app. This is especially useful in the email app, where you can compose a new message while jumping back to your inbox to reference a couple other messages or even quickly copy-and-paste from one of those messages into the email that you're composing.
The TouchPad offers Web browsing that gets a lot closer to the desktop Web experience than the iPad. A lot of that has to do with its Flash capabilities, but it also handles some other interactive Web code better than the iPad, even though both are based on Webkit browsers. As for Flash, I'm not a huge fan of Flash and try to avoid it whenever possible because it's such a resource hog, but there large swaths of the Web that are still based on Flash and will be for several more years until HTML5 becomes the standard. The TouchPad offers a much better Flash experience than the buggy Flash you'll find on Android tablets, but it's not quite as smooth as the excellent Flash experience on the 7-inch BlackBerry PlayBook. Of course, the iPad does not support Flash at all. An example of how the TouchPad also works on some sites where the iPad does not is WordPress, the popular blogging tool. The WordPress Web interface does not work on the iPad, but it does work on the TouchPad. I actually started my review of the TouchPad on the TouchPad itself with its expanded virtual keyboard, and then continued it when I docked the TouchPad in landscape mode in the wireless docking station and wireless keyboard.Number 3: Interaction between tablet and smartphone
The other area where HP has done some solid innovation is in the interaction between tablet and smartphone. Most of the professionals who have a tablet also have a smartphone and there are times when it gets clumsy and confusing as to when to use which one for which task. HP has addressed this by letting you pair one of its smartphones with the TouchPad. I tested this with the Pre3 and was pretty impressed. It allows you to take a call received on your phone and bump it over to speakerphone on the tablet or take a text message from the phone and bump it over to the tablet's instant messaging app. There's also a feature called Touch-to-Share that allows you to take a Web page you have open on the TouchPad and share it to the smartphone by simply touching the phone to the tablet. This is fairly rudimentary stuff and it's limited just to HP phones, but it's nice start in bridging these two devices in some meaningful ways.Wrap-up
Overall, I think the TouchPad's strengths will especially appeal to professionals who want to use a tablet as a productivity device. These are primarily the folks who want to buy their own tablets and then use them for work.
The TouchPad isn't perfect. It's still a little laggy once in a while, it's missing some key applications, and it will need some better content deals to function as a media device, but it's arguably the most productive tablet yet and the first one that can serve as a legitimate laptop replacement for professionals on the road.
I'm Jason Hiner of TechRepublic and for more on the HP TouchPad take a look at my full product review and extensive photo gallery of both the TouchPad and its accessories. You can also find my blog Tech Sanity Check at sanity.techrepublic.com and you can find me on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonhiner. Thanks for watching. See you next time.
Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.