TouchPad vs. iPad: Apple had them from the start

The last twenty-four hours of my life have generally been centered around the HP TouchPad. I don’t think I would have ever guessed that would be the case, but so it is. Around 10pm (CST) last night, I learned about the TouchPad “Fire Sale” and then set about the process to obtain two of the units. I’ve covered that story a few blog posts ago.

I’m not a “expert” TouchPad user yet (if there is such a thing), but the majority of gestures and functionality of the device are/is the same as the iPad, and the body of the TouchPad itself seems to be exactly the same size as the iPad 1. Three things really differentiate the TouchPad from the iPad: the “cards” of WebOS, the plastic back of the TouchPad, and the Camera. There are other differences, such as the lack of iTunes, USB charging and data access (vs. 30 pin), and so on. But those are minor differences. You can still use iTunes (HP has a program that interacts with it) and Apple may move to USB to meet European standards in the future. And as you know, the iPad 2 contains 2, not just one camera.

I keep coming back to the conclusion that if you want a tablet mainly for Internet and e-mail (which is what the majority of people use computers for), this tablet is a steal at $99. Otherwise, the iPad has always has the TouchPad beat. As an educator, the device lacks capabilities and apps for the classroom, and as musician, the device lacks apps for the performance/study/practice of music. Here are some thoughts:

1) The TouchPad has a faster processor and more RAM than the iPad 1 or 2. Both the iPad 1 and 2 operate faster than the TouchPad (noticeably so, although not terribly so). One report from yesterday indicated that HP was able to install WebOS on the iPad, and it worked better on the iPad than it did on the TouchPad. Note: the TouchPad has the faster processor and greater amount of RAM. This just shouldn’t be. It tells you that the hardware side of the TouchPad is flawed. It might give some hope to WebOS, if HP ever licenses it, or if HP even continues to develop the OS.

2) Developers were waiting in line to sell for the iPad before it was introduced. It’s pretty clear that developers were waiting to see what happened with WebOS before jumping on board (There are probably a few developers sighing a big sigh of relief today, that had been wondering if they made the right choice). On a side note, I hope the large number of TouchPad sales today will spur some developers to make more apps for the TouchPad. Even though the TouchPad isn’t the iPad, it’s still a good product with a good OS. The users of the device deserve even more quality apps.

3) That said, I’m still looking for several key apps, including a true word processor, a presentation package (think PowerPoint or KeyNote), a PDF reader that is fast and turns pages side to side, even more–a PDF reader that has annotation capabilities, and a notebook app like Penultimate or Noteshelf. Note that apps in all of these categories were available on DAY 1 of the iPad.

4) The TouchPad can’t replace a SMART Board. There’s no video out, and there’s no Apple TV for the TouchPad. The iPad 2 is going to shake education this fall…interactive whiteboard sales are going to plummet, and the sales of iPads, Apple TVs, and large LCD TVs (65 inches and larger) are going to go through the roof (TVs also have a longer lifespan, whereas projectors will be replaced multiple times, even with bulb replacements).

5) I’ll go back to the word processor again. How is a kid supposed to use a tablet in school if they can’t write a paper? There are some basic apps…but come on, HP! Was it that hard to have an office suite ready to go when you introduced this device fourteen months after the debut of the iPad? Quick Office has promised the ability to edit and create documents…but will they still do so? This strikes me as engineers (or product managers) who bought into the mantra that “tablets are for consumption, not creation.” This TouchPad “fire sale” is what happens when you follow that mantra.

6) The device was just too late. Why would you buy a $499 TouchPad when you could buy an iPad, unless you are a developer, you’re a techie with money to spend, or you hate Apple products?

Don’t get me wrong…the TouchPad is a nice little device, that in 2009 (before the iPad) would have rocked the computer industry just like the iPad. But 2009 isn’t good enough in 2011, when you have iPads and Android tablets to choose from. At $99, it’s a great purchase–as long as you have limited plans for the device. If you want a tablet–mainly because of apps, but sometimes because of other device (e.g. Apple TV)–that can exceed its original conception, you’ll have to choose either the iPad or one of the Android Tablets…but as for me, I’m wagering on Apple.

Will I buy an Android Tablet? Well, if the top-of-the-line Android tablet suddenly goes on sale for 80% off, yes, I will. Otherwise, I now have both an iPad and a TouchPad to work with. And hopefully some additional apps will be coming with the TouchPad.

**As a side note, it’s altogether possible that the TouchPad “community” could devise a way to install Android on a TouchPad…I’d certainly be interested in that possibility, too.

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