HP’s Jon Rubinstein compares HP TouchPad growing pains to early days of OS X

Wed, Jul 20, 2011


HP TouchPad reviews thus far have been sort of mediocre. While many are praising the device’s speed and of of course the intuitive WebOS software that powers the device, day to day use of the device isn’t exactly a seamless user experience.

Writing for This is My Next, Joshua Topolsky writes that the TouchPad’s multitouch display was lacking in sensitivity and would often ignore touches.

Presses to buttons on the screen would go unanswered, applications would suddenly pause, lists I was scrolling moved intermittently and erratically (or would just disappear altogether). Sometimes the device felt smooth and light, while at other moments it locked up or sputtered to a point of complete aggravation. More than once I had the entire system freeze and then reboot while I was in the midst of navigating (or trying to navigate) my way out of some weird UI fender bender. All across the OS I found myself discovering dark corners of unfinished or untested chunks of the UI, like when I would use the upward swipe gesture to bring up the launcher, and accidentally open an app instead.

Similar complaints were seen across a number of different reviews and these negative critiques were not lost on HP executive Jon Rubinstein – who previously served as one of Steve Jobs’ right hand men back in another lifetime.

In an email sent out to HP employees, Rubinstein addressed many of the negative aspects touched upon in TouchPad reviews and compared the growing pains to those experienced by Apple when it released the first iteration of OS X in the early 2000s.

The letter reads:


Today we bring the HP TouchPad and webOS 3.0 to the world.  The HP team has achieved something extraordinary – especially when you consider that it’s been just one year since our work on the TouchPad began in earnest.  Today also marks the start of a new era for HP as our vision for connected mobility begins to take form – an ecosystem of services, applications and devices connected seamlessly by webOS.

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.” (I’ve included links to David’s review and others below.) 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 that spirit, Richard Kerris, head of worldwide developer relations for webOS, reminded me yesterday of the first reviews for a product introduced a little over ten years ago:

“…overall the software is sluggish”
“…there are no quality apps to use, so it won’t last”
“…it’s just not making sense….”

It’s hard to believe these statements described MacOS X – a platform that would go on to change the landscape of Silicon Valley in ways that no one could have imagined.

The similarities to our situation are obvious, but there’s also a big difference. Like David Pogue, our audiences get that webOS has the potential for greatness. And like me, they know that your hard work and passion, and the power of HP’s commitment to webOS, will turn that potential into the real thing.

An interesting analogy to be sure, but HP here arguably has a tougher hill to climb. At least the Mac had a passionate and entrenched userbase it could rely on whereas HP enjoys no such advantage. Further, OS X quickly became the superior OS of its day – and while WebOS by all accounts seems great, it still can’t compete with the user experience Apple provides with iOS running on the iPad. Moreover, the tablet market is fundamentally different from the tablet market. We’re not just comparing OS software anymore. Equally as important in the mobile space are mobile apps and right now the selection for the HP TouchPad is laughable.

The HP TouchPad may be a step up from the Android iPad-wannabees that keep on hitting the market, but HP has a monumental challenge on its hand if it truly wants to cause Apple to panic.

via PreCentral


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