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3/2/2011
11:08 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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HP Exec Notes RIM PlayBook's 'Uncanny Similarities'

Is RIM's PlayBook operating system too much like HP's webOS platform? HP says Yes; RIM says No.

An HP representative has said that the PlayBook operating system developed by Research In Motion mimics webOS a little bit too closely.

Speaking to Laptop magazine, Jon Oakes, director of product marketing for TouchPad, said, "There are some uncanny similarities." What he's referring to is the way the PlayBook OS treats multitasking and basic home screen tasks. For example, webOS places applications on "cards." Users swipe through the cards to access open applications. When a user wants to close an app, they simply flick it off the top of the screen.

PlayBook OS works in exactly the same way. Apps sent to the background remain on the home screen and users can swipe from left to right to access those recently used apps. Want to close a PlayBook app? Flick it off the top of the screen.

"It’s a fast innovation cycle and a fast imitation cycle in this market," Oaks said, "so we just know that we have the creative engine here to continue to build on what we have, and we’ll keep innovating, we’ll keep honing and those guys hopefully will continue to see the value in it and keep following us by about a year."

I'm not sure I agree with Oaks assertion that PlayBook OS is about a year behind webOS (at least with respect to tablets). RIM's PlayBook will launch no later than April 30. HP's TouchPad isn't slated to reach the market until closer to the end of the second quarter. Technically, PlayBook OS will be available in tablet form before HP's webOS tablet will debut.

But Oaks is right in saying that webOS is further along it terms of overall development. The first webOS smartphone from Palm became available in June 2009. Though it hasn't changed much in the last two years, the version of webOS that HP is now finalizing for its tablet brings a lot of new stuff to the table.

RIM was sure to file a response to HP's comments. It told Laptop magazine: "You know, cars over time end up looking a lot alike because you put them through a wind tunnel, and when you're trying to come up with the best coefficient to drag ratio, there's one optimized shape that gets the best wind resistance, right? Well, when you're trying to optimize user experience that juggles multitasking, multiple apps open at once and on a small screen, you're going to get people landing on similar kinds of designs."

In other words, RIM claims it came by PlayBook's look and feel all on its own because that's what made the most sense to RIM.

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