Over the weekend, an amazing piece of detective work by the WebOS Internals team and some crowd-sourcing via Twitter has revealed that there approximately 4.2 million WebOS users, give or take.
Every WebOS phone or tablet user has to create a profile in order to use their device. Each profile has a unique identifier, a number that appears to simply increment by 1 as each new profile is created. Early Palm Pre adopters have identifiers typically in the 10,000s whereas those who started with the TouchPad are in the milllons. The profile identifier cannot normally be seen by the user but a Homebrew program called Impostah, developed by Rod Whitby and WebOS Internals, allowed this number to be revealed.
Using Twitter, WebOS owners were encouraged to come forwards with their identifier and the date they signed up so that a graph of identifiers against time could be plotted, showing the rise of WebOS and key moments in the timeline, such as the release of new devices. The graph, courtesy of WebOS Internals, is shown below and what you can see is a fairly steady rise reaching around 4.2 million. The most notable point is probably when HP had the TouchPad firesale and the graph climbs steeply. Click on the graph for more detail.
The number of profiles is slightly ambiguous when trying to convert to numbers of users or number of devices because while you can only have one phone per profile, you can have a phone and a tablet. For example, if you had both a Veer and a Pre 3 you would need two profiles, but if you had a Pre 3 and a TouchPad you’d only need one profile. Obviously, there are also accounts that have become dormant when the owner has moved to another platform.
In comparison to iOS and Android, both of which have in excess of 100 million users each, the 4 million-odd WebOS users are a drop in the ocean. Regardless, the graph shows that there was slow but steady adoption of a little under 2 million per year. Of course, HP continues to dither over the future of WebOS.
The WebOS Internals team are a bunch of hackers (in the best sense of the word) who created a whole Homebrew ecosystem under the Preware moniker that allowed Pre owners to add easily add patches and other software outside of the official App Catalog. They’re probably WebOS’s best last chance.
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.
Last week at this time, people were buzzing about the HP TouchPad and it’s $99 availability. By Saturday morning, the tablet was pretty much gone. I was one of those in line early at Best Buy only to find out they wouldn’t sell us one. For the next 48 hours, I hunted through the sites trying to get my hands on the TouchPad. I apparently scored 3 – including one from Barnes and Noble. Yet, all three were cancelled.
One in-particular was sold by a 3rd party company through Amazon. It was called “Green Frog”. Now, here is the interesting thing about this purchase: They put the TouchPad on their site Monday evening. They also advertised it for $52 for the 32 GB model TouchPad.
Within moments, I snapped one up. I figured if it was a scam, Amazon had my back. Many others did the same. However, the next day, we got the email:
We’re writing to inform you that your order xxx-xxxx from GreenFrog has been canceled because the item(s) you purchased were out of stock. Please return and place your order again at a later time.
Our sellers strive to minimize canceled orders. We’re sorry for the inconvenience this has caused. Your credit card was not charged for this order. If you have any questions regarding the cancelation of this order, please contact GreenFrog.
If you’re still interested in this item, please search for it again on Amazon.com.
Out of stock? I think not. I think the seller made a mistake and therefore tried to hide it. But keep in mind – this product went on sale Monday evening – 3 days after the tablet price change was announced.
Why Not A Gift Card or Something?
What really irked me – Especially with the Barnes and Noble fiasco – was that we were not given any compensation. No “Hey, we screwed up, but here’s something for you”. In fact:
Barnes and Noble Should Have Given $100 Credit on the Color Nook to all Customers whose TouchPad Orders were Cancelled.
I would have snapped that up in a heartbeat. I then would have had a Color Nook to buy books and apps with. But instead, I got a form letter much like a “Dear John” letter and nothing to show for my effort. In return, Barnes and Noble got my information. Since I never bought anything online from them, they now have my email address, my mailing address and my phone number. So I ask you, is that a fair trade?
Back to Green Frog – They got hit hard. They’re rating had jumped from 97% positive to 93% Negative. The comments were not as nice, either.
“Seller supposedly sold out, nonsense@ It was a very low price, too low, seller decided NOT to sell at that price.They can shove it.”
“Seller is a scammer, dont do business with them. Terrible service, cancels orders to avoid paying Amazon fees when they realize they can sell them elsewhere for more money. Again, avoid them at all costs.”
“I ordered 3 of the HP Touchpad’s, and after I received a confirmation for my order, I received a notice that it was canceled by you, and that my credit card will not be charged. However, MY CREDIT CARD HAS BEEN CHARGED. I do not appreciate the misrepresentation of the sale, or the taking of my money. ”
“I attempted to purchase two HP Touchpads. The order went thru and then a day later they stated that they did not have any in stock. They cancelled my order. I will never buy anything from this company again. I wish I would’ve looked at the prior FEEDBACKS which wouldve given me an idea of whom I was dealing with!!!!”
“Order placed was cancelled, the seller put up an item which sold out in minutes. Does not seem like anyone who was able to place an order received their item, everyone seems to have had their order cancelled also.”
There were more, but you get the idea.
Part of this problem might be due to the fact that HP recalled the remaining TouchPads. Why? Most likely so they could give them to the people they sold the device to on their website. Chances are, if you got that deal on HP.com, your TouchPad was sitting in a Best Buy just a week before.
So in summation, 1 tablet was discontinued, at least one web seller had their name turned to mud, Barnes & Noble missed out on a marketing opportunity and there are a lot of disgruntled people without TouchPads. Not a great week for some, although others who did get the device have been talking a lot about it.
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?
A few days ago we received the sad news that HP was discontinuing webOS devices. The only good news out of that was for gadget lovers – HP has slashed prices on the recently released TouchPad (it’s already out-of-stock at Walmart online). The bad news for HP, beyond the bad press and bad stock prices, was that Microsoft leaped on the news and immediately began recruiting webOS developers for their Windows Phone platform.
Microsoft’s Brandon Walsh reached out to webOS developers on Twitter, and began the process of bringing them over to Windows Phone. He even went so far as to offer free phones and other tools. At last check, he had received more than 200 replies.
While HP has killed off the hardware-making side of their webOS business, they are hoping to keep the software alive by licensing it to third-party hardware makers, as Google does with Android. That means HP needs to keep these developers on board. That will be difficult with no agreements in place yet to ensure the OS’s future. Still, they are trying their best to maintain ties – see their blog post The Next Chapter for webOS.
Given the current state, it will be hard for HP to hold onto these developers, and given what they have already done, it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t pull the plug on the software side of webOS at any moment. This has been a short ride for HP and webOS, and I can’t help but think that they didn’t give it it’s deserved time and effort. Consider it a premature death.
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.
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.