Space year 2011AD has been a strange one for some devices. The looong-awaited Nokia N9 springs to mind with its failure to launch in the UK (not in an official capacity, anyways), then there’s the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 with all its legal troubles courtesy of Apple.
And let’s not forget the late HP TouchPad. It deserves a mention too. In fact, its storied history is probably worthy of an entire Monday feature. If not, I’m about to look pretty, pretty, pretty silly. Ready? Set phasers to rock.
Going way back to February, the HP TouchPad was revealed alongside the Pre 3, the Veer and webOS 3.0. We were admittedly quite impressed, and wondered if HP might be able to steal some of the limelight from iOS and Android.
The HP TouchPad in particular promised a dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor, putting it firmly among the first wave of dual-core tablets.
However, following the initial launch event, little was heard of the HP TouchPad for several months. In those months, Apple released the dual-core iPad 2, and we learned of the super-slim Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Suddenly the HP TouchPad didn’t seem quite so awesome, but we still secretly had high hopes.
Another chap with high hopes was HP’s European boss, Eric Cador, who – in May – produced one of the funniest quotes of the year, albeit unintentionally. In fact, it’s even funnier now that we know how the whole saga ends. Eric boldly promised: “In the tablet world we’re going to become better than number one. We call it number one plus.” Amazing. Ten out of ten for confidence, Eric.
Or perhaps blind optimism is more accurate. How HP expected the TouchPad to compete with the iPad's App Store library is beyond us. To be fair, the Hewlett Packardians announced a monthly app magazine, Pivot, which ultimately aimed to establish webOS as “the growing platform of opportunity”, but we still anticipated some serious gaps.
Come July, the long wait was finally over. The HP TouchPad touched down first in the US, receiving decidedly mixed reviews in the process, and a couple of weeks later it was our turn.
Being priced identically to the iPad 2 (a bizarre policy adopted by several of Apple’s rivals), we quickly realised that the HP TouchPad stood little to no chance of making a significant impact on the tablet market.
Indeed, less than two months after the TouchPad's release, Eric Cador’s “better than number one” dream became a nightmare, as HP announced it was pulling the plug on webOS. Oh dear.
In the days following the announcement, HP slashed the price of its remaining TouchPads and flogged them off in a blazing fire sale. For an incredibly limited time, it was possible to pick up a 16GB HP TouchPad for just £89. Insane.
Around the same time, it was revealed that Android was being ported to the HP TouchPad, making the budget tablet all the more desirable.
Those of us who weren’t lucky enough to bag an HP TouchPad during the first sale were given a glimmer of hope with the promise of “one last run”, but – as Mobot exclusively discovered – the final batch would be served to US consumers only. Bah.
While all this was going on, the fate of webOS wasn’t entirely clear. Samsung, Amazon and Facebook were all rumoured to be interested in buying the OS, however it was revealed just over a week ago that HP will make webOS open source.
It remains to be seen if there’ll be any third party interest, but HP hasn’t ruled out making more webOS-based devices of its own in future. Maybe the HP TouchPad story ain’t quite over yet…