This Is My Next has a great article describing why so many people are buying $99 TouchPads even after HP announced they would be discontinuing the product and possibly the platform. As one of the first to purchase the TouchPad at the reduced price I know the lure of affordable electronics firsthand, but my decision to buy a 32GB TouchPad at $135 was not based on cost alone.
I ordered a Palm Pre the day it was released, and as a long time WebOS user I can tell you the TouchPad’s strength comes from its operating system. WebOS combines complex concepts such as multi-touch gestures, and multitasking into a seamless user experience that is more elegant than its peers.
Swiping between cards is a more natural way of switching between applications than repeatedly pressing iOS’s Home Button. Flicking cards off the top of the screen is a more intuitive way of quitting applications than launching Android’s task manager. Standardized gestures makes navigation on WebOS consistent, while iOS and Android users still struggle with unpredictable on-screen controls and inconsistent physical buttons. Say what you will about the WebOS’s slow performance or minuscule app store. A $135 TouchPad offers a unique chance to experiment with the last version of one of the world’s most well designed user interfaces.
The TouchPad is not an Newton, but like the Newton the TouchPad was abandoned prematurely. HP may be ending support for the TouchPad, but that does not mean that the TouchPad’s life is over. It will continue to function tomorrow as it does today, and like the Newton a community of users may rise up to lift it forward.
The TouchPad has some life extending advantages that the Newton does not. The TouchPad was developed after the internet was already established. The first Newton was developed during the early days of the internet’s introduction. The TouchPad was built around modern connectivity like Wifi, and Bluetooth. On the Newton Wifi and Bluetooth had to be bootstrapped by the community of users. The TouchPad’s integrated application suite includes services like email, multimedia playback, and web browsing. On the Newton email, multimedia playback, and web browsing were an afterthought. The TouchPad’s greatest advantage over the Newton, and its greatest source of longevity, may be its HTML5 compatible browser and web based programming language. While today’s Newton struggles to connect to the world and adopt new technologies, the TouchPad will endure riding on the popularity of the world wide web.
The TouchPad hardware alone is estimated to cost $328.15, but the value of a $135 internet connected tablet cannot be determined by the sum of its parts. The TouchPad will always have fewer native applications than iOS, or Android, but it is connected to the same word wide web as those other platforms, with the same set of opportunities. Until the web moves away from HTML, the universal language that made its adoption so widespread, today’s TouchPad will remain just as valuable as any other internet connected tablets at one forth the price.
Innovation, longevity, and value are all reasons why I bought a 32GB TouchPad at $135. I am excited to see how it holds up against the iPad I own today, as well as the iPad of the future. Only time can tell how long the TouchPad will be able to perform its duty as an internet connected tablet, but for less than a one hundred fifty dollars I am willing to bet that it will continue to be a valuable information companion for many years to come.