I had an rough relationship with the Palm Pre last year, I loved the platform but in the end swapped it for an iPhone 4. The reasons were simple, poor quality hardware and sub par performance.
As highlighted in my earlier posts, I dont tend to use many apps, sure on my iPhone I have plenty installed but my core are twitter, facebook and safari. Secondary Apps are lightbike and kindle. Shocking I know, but those are my main uses of both my iPhone and my iPad.
Kindle is coming to webos but sadly I think light bike is but a dream…
Still I had the Pre – for around two weeks and it went from being a techno joy to being just plain annoying, I suspect that the fact that although my app need were satisfied, ‘this was as good as it gets’ put a dampner on things. Combine this with the dissapointing build quality and sluggish performance (I did overclock it but I feel it should be optional rather than mandatory) meant that the Pre and I were doomed.
So why am I posting about the Pre 2? Well as said I’m a big fan of the WebOS platform and when Palm announced it was setting up a developer device program, I signed up immediately. A couple of months later (due to the overwhelming popularity of the program) and I recieved my Pre 2.
So what’s it like? Pretty impressive.
It corrects many of the Pre’s deficiencies, the touchstone coating over the entire surface of the Pre makes it much nicer to hold, I suspect it will pick up less scratches that the hard plastic of the Pre -. Further enhancing the Pre 2 is the redesign of the front of the phone. These consist of two changes, first (and arguably most importantly) a change to a Gorilla Glass screen. The plastic screen of the Pre – was a real let down for me, it just made it feel cheap and it scratched incredibly easily. The other major change is recessing the ear piece, it’s a simple change but it creates a very iPhone like appearence and brings the Pre 2 closer to a premium device.
The keyboard is much improved, I had found myself getting more and more frustrated with the onscreen keyboard of the iPhone 4, so the transition was welcome. The key action is more satisfying and I find myself making far less mistakes, the cheese grater edge is still present. However, the slider seems to be the same sadly and there is ‘Oreo shimmy’ present, which jars slightly with the rest of the improvements, I don’t have great confidence that the Pre 2 will handle a short fall any better than the original.
Performance is a strange combination of improved and sluggish, launching apps is much improved and TMC has not reared it head just yet. The touchscreen seems to be far less accurate than that of the iPhone 4, I’m not sure of the reason but I find that in some instances, multiple presses are required to make the phone recognise the button press. There are also noticeable pauses when using the gesture area, especially if you switch on ‘advance gestures’.
Now lets get on to the important bit, software.
The changes in WebOS are stunning, I love just type.
It enables me to quickly and easily find/search both locally and on the internet. For example If I wanted to find out where Pecroino Sardo came for, I simply swipe up and start typing and I can choose to search for it using twitter, wikipedia and the internet. I can also instantly see how many emails and messages contain that term. You can also add custom search engines (e.g. WordPress), if a website supports just type a notification will pop up at the bottom of the screen and you can install it.
Stacks, are a simple but very well thought out idea. As we know WebOS is a true multitasking OS but having multiple cards open can make linked information hard to track. Stacks solve this by stacking (shocking I know!) related items on top of each other. So if I have an email with a hyperlink in it, if I choose to open that link it will stay with that email rather than go to the end of the card list. Both are brilliant ideas and available no where else, these are the features that HP need to be screaming from billboards, but that’s a different subject for another time.
Overall the Pre 2 is an improvement, its not perfect but I am making it my main phone, which is as close to a ringing endorsement as you can get.
State of the Union:
- #1: The iPad is the only tablet around in the mind of the consumer, that 90% market share that Apple cited during the iPad 2 launch is no joke.
- #2: The iPad is not perfect
The iPad has driven tablet prices to a hitherto impossible level (see the multitude websites stating the iPad 1 would launch for £999 or similar) and most if not all tablet manufacturers are a year later still scrabbling to catch up. I don’t think that Apple will cede the number one position anytime soon, the total ecosystem it offers is difficult for individual suppliers to combat.
As we all know the UK Education market has been ravaged by cuts and tightening of ICT budgets, institutions nationwide (and globally for that matter) are having to do more with less. At the same time mobile devices are becoming more prevalent both in and outside of education. The iPad has achieved two things, first its created the mindshare for what tablets can do and secondly its raised the bar for what is acceptable for a tablet.
This is a doubled edged sword as its created demand for the device but at a time where investing £399 in a mobile device is difficult to justify.
This become all the more difficult when you try to integrate the iPad into your existing education environment:
- iPads offer no access to the file system so do not work with VLE’s (i.e. you can’t upload into areas)
- Schools can’t use systems like drop box due to third party data protection issues
- You cannot bulk specify a proxy, even with the iPhone configuration meaning that a tech will have to manually enter it on each iOS device (fine for one class, not for an entire school)
- A iPad can only sync with a total of five machines, yet does not offer any out of the box cloud/wireless ways of transmitting content
- iPads are poor content distributors i.e. give a student a task that requires them to create and then share content with the teacher and it will in most cases require 3rd party work arounds
In short the iPad creates fundamental barriers to integrating it into education and Apple is unwilling to help ‘We’re not looking to go in that direction’ is a response I’ve received from an Apple engineer when discussing the above issues. In spite of this, they are the number one requested item by teachers and because of this I think that HP has a distinct opportunity to flourish in the education sector as the only credible alternative to the iPad.
Lets not forget the elephant in the room, Android.
Android tablets fall into two catagories, cheap and nasty or prohibitively expensive. Add to this the lack of a consistant UI (although this may change with Honeycomb) and a lack of tablet formatted apps stacks the deck against wide scale adoption of the platform.
Try to convince a user:
- ‘So it’s cheaper than the iPad?’ No
- ‘Ah so that means it must be lighter!’ No
- ‘But it must have hundreds of tablet Apps!’ No
What is the incentive for the user to invest?
This is the issue that manufacturers of Non – iPads face, everything you do, all of your services are going to be compared to the iPad, whenever I talk about the Xoom, TouchPad to people the word tablet fails to have any resonance ‘Oh you mean an iPad…’. Manufacturers need to understand is that the product they are going to buy is an iPad, unless you give them a damn good reason not to. This is clearly demonstrated by the lack of interest in the Motorola Xoom despite having impressive specifications 1280 * 800 resolution screen, 1GB ram, dual core processor etc it means nothing to most users.
TLDR? In short being better wont win the war.
So is HP doomed? I’m not sure.
And it hit me, there’s the hook, the USP for use of the TouchPad within education, it goes a little something like this:
- Offer a slight discount on the hardware, it doesn’t have to be massive but enough for the cheapest model to undercut the 16gb iPad
- Offer a training program for Teachers to learn about WebOS and how develop Apps for themselves
- Offer on site support to those Teachers when they teach these classes
Think of the PR potiential of the above:
- The School gets devices at a discount
- Students get not only access to devices but learn marketable skills for the future
It means that HP doesn’t just sell devices, it offers the those that invest in the TouchPad opportunities to enhance their Students career potential.
Apple is doing everything it can to hold itself back in the market, HP has a real chance to capitalise on it but only if it offers something different.