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7/11/2011
04:34 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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HP Execs Respond To TouchPad Criticism

Senior level HP employees--including former Palm head Jon Rubinstein--have publicly responded to the initial wave of reviews of the company's TouchPad tablet.

HP began selling its first webOS tablet, the TouchPad, on July 1. The first batch of reviews to hit the market called the device hit-and-miss. While it shows great potential, some said the execution of both hardware and software elements of the device were perhaps not the best for a brand new product.

InformationWeek's Fritz Nelson wrote in his review of the TouchPad, "It's an innovative tablet with some fantastically juicy surprises that will make you want it now, but it carries enough disappointments that you'll probably wait for the next version. It's not enough to make you put down your iPad 2, or its near-equivalent Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but it will make you wish those tablets bestowed the TouchPad's user experience and included its other innovations."

Jon Rubinstein, senior vice president and general manager for the Palm global business unit, responded to the reviews quickly by sending an email to internal HP staffers (which of course was published by PreCentral, among other sites). In the email, Rubinstein pointed out that many of the problems experience by reviewers were known in the company, and fixes are forthcoming.

The email read, in part, "If you've seen the recent TouchPad reviews you know that the industry understands HP's vision and sees the same potential in webOS as we do. David Pogue from the New York Times says 'there are signs of greatness here.' You've also seen that reviewers rightly note things we need to improve about the webOS experience. The good news is that most of the issues they cite are already known to us and will be addressed in short order by over-the-air software and app catalog updates. We still have work to do to make webOS the platform we know it can be, but remember ... it's a marathon, not a sprint."

In short, Rubinstein was giving the team a little pep talk, making sure they stay focused on the positive and continue to work hard at improving HP's tablet.

Now, Ari Jaaski, HP's head of webOS development, has weighed in, taking a more point-by-point approach to the reviews in order to help put things in perspective. In a post published on Jaaski's personal blog, he speaks from the heart, and clearly is committed to helping webOS be a success.

"I'm the first to admit that the work has only started and we still need to improve," he said. "Our products are very good already now, and they are only getting better through oncoming software updates; over-the-air, of course. We are extremely committed to take the webOS experience further."

The first subject he tackles is the reports of sluggish TouchPad performance. Jaaski notes that during the first few hours of use, reviewers set up and synced multiple email, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, photosharing, and other accounts/networks with their devices. With so much data to digest in the background, any tasks happening in the foreground were sure to run into some trouble.

This isn't an issue unique to webOS. I've experienced it many, many times on Android devices. The first few hours any Android device is used--even if only syncing a user's Google account in the background--are less than speedy thanks to the hard work the device is doing talking to the network so it can transfer data back and forth.

Jaaski says that the TouchPad's performance will certainly improve over (a short amount of) time, though he admits that HP can do some clean-up work when it comes to system performance.

Another negative aspect called out by reviewers is the lack of apps for the TouchPad. Jaaski points out that, quite simply, not even developers had access to the TouchPad itself until the July 1 release. Until then, they were using HP's Web-based developer tools. Now that the tablet is available, Jaaski expects apps to start flowing in. "TouchPad needs applications, and developers need TouchPads. We are getting very encouraging messages from developers. I firmly believe webOS is a very good platform to develop apps."

The bottom line, says Jaaski, is that anyone interested in the HP TouchPad shouldn't just take the reviewers' collective words for it. He "strongly suggests" that people get away from their computer and head to their local electronics retailer to test the TouchPad for themselves.

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