Decision Time For HP and WebOS

HP TouchPad

The rumours continue to swirl around HP and WebOS but AppleInsider is claiming that the fate of WebOS could be decided today (11th October). Reports suggest that the initial bidding process is complete and that an annoucement may be made after a meeting today to confirm the next step in the sale process.

There’s been much speculation as to who the prospective bidders might be. At various times HTC, Samsung, Qualcomm and Facebook have all been in the picture, some more realistically than others, and one of the current hot favourites is Amazon. Looking back at when Palm was up for sale and HP purchased it, BusinessInsider claimed there were five serious suitors, suggesting Apple, Lenovo, Research in Motion (RIM), Google and of course, HP. Which of these would still be interested given the success that HP made of Palm?

Some were after Palm’s considerable patent portfolio rather than WebOS itself, and the famous “smartphone” patent in particular. Even HP were pretty upfront about this with Mark Hurd saying that HP wasn’t buying Palm to be in the smartphone business. (How prophetic was that?)  Ultimately the nature of the sale may depend on HP’s feelings towards WebOS. Do they want to simply get as much as they can of their $1.2 billion back as quickly as they can, or do they want WebOS to succeed, even if HP was unable to make it a winner. Only time will tell.

Read related articles at GNC for HP, Palm and WebOS.

Crushing Demand for HP TouchPad in UK

It’s been an insane day and evening here in the UK if you were interested in HP’s TouchPad firesale. Rumours persisted throughout the day as to when various on-line retailers were going to cut the prices and there was disbelief that the prices were going to be as good as the US $100. Word leaked out that it was going to be £89 for the 16 GB and £115 for the 32 GB but no-one was ready to believe it.

The DSG group stores blinked first with Dixons, Currys and PC World all selling out within minutes, but the price had been confirmed as true. Carphone Warehouse then dropped their prices and within minutes were totally crushed under the load and the website went offline. Comet came on next and were slammed but many people managed to get orders in by refreshing the browser. I managed to snag a 32 GB one to upgrade my 16 GB but it took me an hour to get through all the steps. Amazon seemed late to the party with just the 16 GB on offer but also sold out pretty quickly.

No doubt more stores will drop their prices tomorrow and there will be another frenzy. HP.com is still to drop its prices and they should have a pile. The Pre 3 may also come to the firesale as well and I’ll snap one up if I can. But it tells you one thing…people are hungry for tablets but they can’t afford an iPad. For once it’s not all about apps, it’s about cash.

In exiting a market, HP has propelled the TouchPad to the #2 tablet slot. Can they capitalise on this and turn WebOS into a success or have they simply jumped the shark?

Goodbye Palm and Thanks for the Ride

It’s finally the end of the line for Palm and WebOS. HP killed off the Palm name a few months ago and it now looks like it’s fatal for WebOS too.

In a press release today, HP reported “that it plans to announce that it will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones. HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward.

I’m writing this on a Pre 2 and there’s a TouchPad on my desk, the last in a long line of Palm devices, starting with a Palm III, followed by a IIIxe, a Sony Clie SJ30 and a Clie TH55, possibly the greatest PDA of all time. There was a Tapwave Zodiac 2 somewhere too. Then the era of the smartphone arrived with a Palm Treo 650 and 680, before the long wait for WebOS and the Palm Pre. That’s about fifteen years of close personal friendship.

There’s a small glimmer of hope that WebOS will continue without the devices or perhaps it will be picked up by another manufacturer, but let’s be honest, it’s not looking good.

Farewell, friend.

HP TouchPad Answers Critics

The HP TouchPad came on to the market with two main criticisms, first the lack of apps, and second, pricing was on a par with the iPad 2. Even with these two points, most reviews gave the TouchPad the number 2 tablet slot for WebOS’s ease-of-use.

A month on from the TouchPad’s launch, much of the original criticism can be deflected. HP has reduced the price of the TouchPad by $100 in the US and by similar amounts in most other territories, making the 16GB version $400 and the 32 GB $500. Early purchasers have been taken care of with a $50 credit to buy apps from the App Catalog.

As for the apps, a bundle of new apps get added to the App Catalog every day and there’s usually one or two key apps each week that round out the TouchPad’s portfolio. This week saw UPnP AV Player and a Google Reader client, TouchFeeds, released amongst others and while there are other similar apps in the App Catalog, these are the first that don’t deserve a beta version moniker. There are plenty of really good apps in the Catalog and there are more coming through as developers get to grips with the platform. Twitter app – check; Facebook app – check; Flickr app – check; ToodleDo app – check; digital music store app – check; ebay app – check; WordPress app – check. It’s definitely getting there.

There’s also some evidence that it’s beginning to pay off for developers who have invested in the platform. PreCentral reports that OneCrayon, developer of TapNote, has seen sales jump significantly since the TouchPad went on sale. Regrettably the graph that accompanies the article doesn’t have any units on the y-axis but it certainly looks impressive.

HP’s done something a little different as well. Each month it produces a digital magazine called Pivot, which showcases apps in a glossy setting. It’s even customised for the particular country, so the UK version is a little different from the US one. Overall, it’s a nice touch.

It’s looking up for the TouchPad and at $100 less that the iPad 2 with apps coming every day, it’s a bargain.

 

HP TouchPad Mini Review

My HP TouchPad arrived on my doorstep last Tuesday and it’s been an interesting week since I opened the box. Here are a few thoughts on the first WebOS tablet.

First impressions do count and the box itself started well. It has an almost airtight sliding drawer construction that makes it impossible to open quickly. This slowly reveals the TouchPad as it pulls gently out. Once you eventually have the ‘Pad in your hand, it’s obvious that this is a well-constructed device. The front is glass, presumably of the Gorilla variety, and the black is a hard shiny plastic with the HP logo in the centre. It is heavier than I was expecting but not uncomfortably so.

As a Pre 2 owner, I was right at home with WebOS from the start. Some of the gestures are missing, such as the back swipe, but the main upwards swipe from the bottom of the screen persists. Along with the multitasking this is the heart of WebOS. And it works very well. I’m probably biased but I definitely think that WebOS is the best tablet OS by far.

This would be for naught if there weren’t the apps to run on the OS. And it would be wrong to say that there are loads, becuase there aren’t. But they’re coming and each day new apps are released specifically for the TouchPad. Most of the phone-based apps also work in a kind of emulator but you don’t get the benefit of the big screen. The TouchPad apps are pretty good and there’s some nice free stuff that HP has presumably helped with. The Epicurious app is chock full of great recipes and there are Sky News and USA Today apps as well. Of course, Angry Birds makes its obligatory appearance.

Other commentators have mentioned that the TouchPad is a bit laggy. Laggy is the wrong word – it pauses sometimes. When you are actually doing stuff, it’s pretty quick – I have no complaints there. For example, doing a bit of web surfing is as quick as you’d get at your laptop, but if I switch to the email app and I change to a different email account, the app sometimes seems to pause as if it’s checking for new email. These are generally minor irritations – looking at my TouchPad now, I’m listening to music with a weather app, email and three web browsing sessions open. Flicking between the apps is smooth and they respond instantly once they pop to the foreground.

What else is good? The Beats Audio is very impressive – I think it’s possibly the best MP3 player I’ve listened to.
The Skype client is integrated into the Messaging App and seems to work well. I Skype-d my father with video from the UK to Shanghai and there was a bit of lag at the beginning of the call but the call got better as it went on. (Of course there are a number of factors involved in Skype calls).
Ms Office document editing isn’t ready yet but the viewer has handled all the Office docs and Adobe .pdfs that I’ve thrown at it.
Video plays well but the hi-res screen shows up the limitations of the source. What looked really crisp on my phone now looks a bit pixellated in places. Perhaps I should have bought the 32 GB version after all.
Flash works as well as Flash ever does. The BBC’s iPlayer works ok but I had a bit of trouble with Channel 4’s on demand programming.
Bizarrely, there’s no calculator app. C’mon guys – how long would it have taken to take the basic calculator from the Pre and re-skin it?

There’s a nice three pane app interface that I hadn’t seen before. It’s used to good advantage in the email app, with the left column showing accounts, the middle showing the email headers and the right showing the email body. By tapping on a little III icon, you can get the pane to expand over the panes to the left. It’s very slick and very handy.

One personal peeve is that certain apps insist on running in a particular orientation, which as far as I’m concerned is upside down when I’m holding the TouchPad in my hand. I can understand that some apps want to run in landscape rather than portrait but wanting to run a particular way up is nonsense.

Overall, I’m pleased with my purchase – for the purposes of disclosure this was a personal purchase and not a review unit. There are some rough edges and there is a lack of apps, but there’s nothing a few software updates won’t fix.

Add Pad App for HP WebOS Review

Add Pad by Dragongears is one of those little apps that you never knew you needed, but now that it’s on your smartphone, it’s indispensable. Add Pad can simply be described as a notebook that adds up. Any number encountered in the text is added to a running total shown in the bottom right of each note.

The top level screen shows the total values for each note.

Add Pad

The uses are myriad. You can use it to keep track of mileage for expenses or what you spend your cash on. I personally find it excellent for is calculating how much wood I need for little garden projects. It’s not perfect, as when I need four uprights, I have to enter the number (70 in this case) four times, but it does make it very flexible. The only other mathematical function supported is minus, so -10 will subtract 10 from the total.

Wood

Add Pad lets you set different units for each note and whether the unit comes before or after the number. The notes can also get coloured marks so that can be used for basic categorisation, e.g. business or personal.

Note

Available now for HP Palm WebOS devices from the App Catalog. If you’re quick, you can get it for free.

Drum Kit Apps for WebOS (HP Palm Pre)

Even in the absence of any real musical ability, sometimes it’s fun to bash away on a drum kit. Most of the various application catalogues for smartphones have little virtual drum kits so you can drum away whenever the urge to jam comes on. The HP App Catalog for WebOS (that’s the Palm Pre series, the Pixi and the Veer) has a selection of drum kit apps, so here’s a quick round up of the offerings – Natural Drums, Drummer, Music Instruments and AudioScape.

Natural Drums lays the instruments out as they might be in real-life with a cartoonish top-down view, as you can see from the screen shot. It has the fewest number of kits with only two, switching between acoustic and electronic, coming with 8 instruments in the former and 7 in the latter. There’s no discernible lag between hitting the screen and the sound coming out, and multitouch is supported, so you can hit several things at once. This is my drum kit of choice and the best bit is that it’s free.

Natural Drums - Acoustic

Natural Drums - Electronic

In comparison with the other apps, Drummer is simply a bit dull and not as polished as the other three. The kit is laid out in uninspiring grey 2 x 4 grid and seems to be only capable of two multitouches at once. The simple layout may suit some who just want to get down to making noise. On the plus side, there are three kits available, Acoustic, Synthesized and Warped. Currently on sale in the App Catalog for £0.99 which doesn’t compare well with the free alternatives.

Drummer

Music Instruments takes the drum kit app and turns it up to 11, with lots of percussion instruments including the infamous cowbell, gong, triangle, tambourine, castanets and xylophone in addition to drums, bongos and cymbals. All the instruments are photorealistic which looks great and works well when there are only one a few instruments shown. However, I find that some of the instruments are too close together on the drum kit to bash with confidence. Multitouch is supported – I was able to test up to four at once and there’s no lag that I can hear. There’s a lot of noise here for no money. More cowbell….

Music Instruments

Music Instruments

Finally, AudioScape is more of a sound machine rather than a pure drum kit. As you’ll see from the picture it lays out the instruments in a 3 x 3 grid with an abstract background pattern. Not sure if it was just me, but I could only get the first six instruments of any set to work. There is a plethora of drum kits including Acoustic Drums, Bongos & Congas, Distorted Drums, Electro Drums 1 and Electro Drums 2. There are also sound boards for Animals, Body Noises, Electric Guitar, Guitar, Piano, Sound Effects 1 and Sound Effects 2. And you can even make your own sound boards by transferring sound files across to the Pre via USB. Multitouch is supported and I was able to produce four noises at once. Another free bargain.

AudioScape

Overall, Natural Drums is my favourite for a bit of jamming. Good looking interface and an app that does what it sets out to do, and do it well. Music Instruments is pretty cool too, with lovely graphics and an unequalled range of percussion instruments. AudioScope is a good app, but it is more of a sound machine and may appeal more to a younger audience who can never get enough of cows mooing and dogs barking. Bringing up the rear is Drummer which is simply eclipsed by its rivals in terms of both features and price.

Reviews carried out an HP Pre 2 running WebOS 2.1.

HP Veer 4G Lands At AT&T

HP and AT&T today announced that the brand new Veer 4G smartphone would be available from 15th May for $99 on a 2 year contract. The Veer is the first of three new devices coming from HP Palm, the others being the TouchPad and the Pre 3.

Running WebOS 2.1, the Veer is a tiny smartphone “the size of a credit card and no thicker than a deck of cards” weighing only 3.6 oz, but still sporting a slide-out keyboard, as you can seen from the picture. Available in both black and white, it’s intended to replace the Pixi in the smartphone range. Given the tiny size I’ll be interested to see one in the flesh, as it were.

I’m not completely au fait with all the 4G terminology but it’s “4G speeds delivered by HSPA+ with enhanced backhaul” so I assume that it’s not a pure 4G phone with LTE or WiMax.

The Palm name is all but gone but it’s good to see that they’re still in the game, albeit now as an independent business unit within HP. With Android and iOS dominating the smartphone race, the first and second positions are pretty much locked in. Third place is wide open with RIM, Microsoft, Nokia and HP all in the running. This starts HP’s chase as they’re definitely coming from behind according to some of the latest figures from Nielson, which gives Palm only about 3% market share.

Poster for WebOS and the HP Palm Pre

As regular listeners to the podcast will know, the Geek News Central website is powered by WordPress. Until now, I’ve always used the web interface to write posts. “It works” is about the kindest thing you can say about it.

Browsing the Palm App Catalog, I came across Poster for WordPress, an app that allows blogging from the Palm Pre and other WebOS devices. It had lots of good reviews so I paid up and downloaded Poster.

Poster can link to multiple blogs and obviously the first thing to do is to setup accounts for the WordPress sites that you want to access.

After setting up access to Geek News Central, Poster shows the last five posts on the site. More can be loaded if needed.

This is entire blog post is written entirely in Poster. You can embolden, italicise, underline and do all three. You can insert pictures or in this case, a screenshot of Poster’s editing screen.

Poster Screenshot

When uploading images, there a four preset sizes you can choose from. Of course, hyperlinks are there too – here’s a link to the App Catalog. This doesn’t quite work perfectly in-line as the image or hyperlink seems to go at the end of the text. Not a problem if you write and edit linearly. However, if you are like me and write before editing in the pictures and hyperlinks, it’s a bit of a pain.

All is not lost as Poster offers three editing modes – Visual, Visual without images and HTML. So in this instance, you can swap to HTML view and then copy’n’paste to move stuff around.

Work in progress drafts can be saved to the blog but once the post is ready, tags and categories can be set before finally changing the status to Published and uploading it. The tags and categories are downloaded from the website itself so everything connects up.

Although I haven’t explored the app further, it also looks like you can work with comments, which could be pretty handy for the active blogger.

Overall, I’m impressed by this app and provided the end result – the post on GNC – is good, this app comes highly recommended.

Poster for WordPress by Gabriele Nizzoli is available from the AppCatalog for £1.59.

Update – I was pretty happy with way the post came out but to be upfront with the review, I added in a few extra links using the web interface and made one correction to the formatting.

Bigstar.TV Streaming TV Service Spans Multiple Devices

Emerald Brooke of Bigstar.TV (www.bigstar.tv) presents the Bigstar.TV streaming service, which has a lot of independent films and older TV shows available to stream to many different devices including iPhone, iPad, Roku, Palm Pre and Android devices.

Interview by Jeffry Powers of Geekazine and Esby Larsen of MrNetCast.com

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