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We’re live at HP’s TouchPad unveiling in San Francisco.The tablet looks pretty great — the UI recalls Android 3.0, but more polished (and Android may well have taken some of the key concepts from Palm) and the hardware is fine. But so far we haven’t seen anything that blows our mind or makes the TouchPad a step better than every other tablet out there.
HP didn’t announce the key information that will make or break the TouchPad: the price. If it’s $800 like Motorola’s Xoom, it’s going to struggle. If it’s cheaper than the iPad, it has a chance.
But HP saved the biggest news for the end: they’re going to ship WebOS on new PCs. That gives it a potentially huge installed base, making the platform much more interesting to developers. Of course, consumers have to CHOOSE to use it over Windows, but that’s still a pretty amazing split from Microsoft, which has been more or less the exclusive provider of operating systems on HP computers for the last 20 years.
Here’s our minute-by-minute coverage of the event:
10:05 AM PT: And we’re in! The event is about to start. It’s taking place in an old military building at Fort Mason that’s been revamped into a conference centre, and HP has put a lot of huge screens and lounge furniture around. Now they’re playing loud LCD Soundsystem, “One Touch”.
Photo: Matt Rosoff
10;1: Still waiting. Still listening to LCD Soundsystem. “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House.” Good stuff, a bit dated. The line outside was insane, and it’s taking everybody a while to get seated.
Photo: Matt Rosoff
10:18: Todd Bradley, Executive Vice President of Personal Systems is on the stage now, asking us to remember the first time we experienced something. Electric cars, videoconferencing. “We should all witness these firsts as often as we can in our lives.”
The screen is showing HP laptops. No TouchPad yet. “In the last 60 seconds, we shipped 120 PCs, 120 printers.” (You can’t lead an HP event without mentioning printers!)
10:21: Bringing scale to our WebOS 2.0 efforts. HP has added hundreds of engineers to the original team acquired from Palm. Doing work that the WebOS team first envisioned five years ago.
10:23: Still doing background on how many mobile devices there are. Come on, show us some product already!
10:24: Our intention with WebOS devices is to transform how they think, how they feel, how they connect.
10:25: Palm’s John Rubinstein takes the stage to cheers. “It’s great to be presenting for the first time as part of Hewlett Packard.”
10:26: He’s talking about Synergy, the system that automatically updates your data in the cloud.
Photo: Matt Rosoff
He’s highlighting great reviews of WebOS from CNET, Engadget, and laptop magazine.
10:26: WebOS 2.1 is the most important update so far. The Pre2 on Verizon will be available for preorder tomorrow.
A lot of the industry is going in larger directions, but one size doesn’t fit all. Power of a large phone in a more compact size.
They’re showing the HP Veer, a smartphone that’s about the size of a credit card. Web browser gives you “access to the full Web, including Adobe flash.” 5 megapixel camera, audio jack using a cool magnetic adaptor. Lots of specs and tech, but the takeaway is this is a powerful phone, powerful enough to play 3D video games.
It can act as a mobile Wi-Fi router for up to 5 devices. Nice.
Available in “early spring.”
Photo: Matt Rosoff
10:33: Now he’s shifting gears. Smartphone for professionals, powerful productivity without giving up their personal passions. It’s the Pre3. (The 3 is superscripted, Pre cubed.) A phone you can use for business that you don’t want to leave at work.
Full multimedia capability, forward facing camera for video calls. Comes in two versions. Same memory as Pre2, running all the same apps as the Pre2.
10:37: OK, finally the tablet. The HP TouchPad. First in a family. 9.7 inch display. 1.6 pounds. Supports video calling — something the iPad doesn’t have yet, although it’s expected in version 2 later this spring.
Photo: Matt Rosoff
He’s showing activity cards, tiny app windows that run on the left side of the screen. Very similar to the application fragments shown in Android 3.0 — and Rubinstein made a sly reference to “big fans” among Palm’s competitors.
Synergy: this is really cool so pay attention. If you’ve already got a WebOS phone, all you have to do is enter your WebOS username and password and all your information — email, calendar — shows up. (Ah, but how many people already have a WebOS phone?)
“If you need to print something — and who doesn’t?” the TouchPad connects to HP printers.
Cool touch: it charges even when it’s still in the case.
Now Sachin Kansal is coming on stage for a demo. You get a text message on your phone, you can see it on your TouchPad. Do all your texting from the TouchPad. Can also make phone calls from it. One touch to make the “complicated Bluetooth setup really simple.”
Photo: Matt Rosoff
The UI looks great, but not significantly BETTER than anything else out there right now. Icons on a toolbar on the bottom of the screen, app windows that scroll across it. Can grab a browser page and “stack” it with a shopping list, helps keep activities together.
Now he’s showing email. Email inbox shows up at left. It’s taking quite a while to load a rich HTML page — kind of embarrassing. Very easy to declutter the mailbox.
Full version of Quick Office will be included, with editing for Microsoft Word and Excel docs.
10:55: Video of Kung Fu Panda online. Notes that it supports both HTML5 and Flash video. Looks good, but not sure it’s that much better than the rest of the pack.
More Web browsing now, showing how there’s an email window that shows up above the Web browser. Touch it and you get to the email app. All emails and IMs from AOL, Yahoo, and Google are all integrated in the same messaging app so you don’t have to switch around.
“I need to tweet this.:” Can type from within any app, it gives options like search, new email — and post to Twitter. “This is seamless integration with social networking.”
Bringing social networking into the photos application. Can view local albums, also collected albums from Facebook, PhotoBucket, and Snapfish. Aww, cute dog pics.
Photo: Matt Rosoff
The point: he can print it out immediately to an HP printer. Wirelessly.
Can post to social networks without having to go to a separate Web site or application — right from within the photo editing app.
Now it’s a reading demo, a recent issue of Sports Illustrated. Also partnering with Amazon on Kindle. No surprise — Amazon makes Kindle available on just about every mobile platform out there.
Switches from audio to video call almost immediately. Very smooth.
11:11: Rubinstein is back on stage. Dreamworks is making games for the TouchPad at launch. Now he’s showing Dreamworks CEO Jeff Katzenberg on video talking about how great the TouchPad is.
A Wi-FI version will be available this summer, followed later by 3G and 4G.
What, no pricing information? Apparently not…maybe later.
He’s talking up Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors, and introducing Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs.
Jacobs says Qualcomm worked with both Palm and HP for a long time, and had a good idea what they were both trying to do in mobile. “Future is wide open” in the mobile space.
Qualcomm shipped 399 million chipsets last year. Notebooks, tablets, smartphones, GPS units, e-readers, and many more. “Not off the shelf ARM cores,” Qualcomm does a lot of its own R&D. He’s basically saying that Qualcomm isn’t just another ARM reseller. But it’s not clear how this makes the HP devices real contenders.
11:23: This Qualcomm commercial seems to be going on for a long time. We get it. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipset is great, HP is great. Together they’re better.
Rubinstein is back. Now he’s promoting Beats audio technology by Dr.Dre and music mogul Jimmy Iovine. Unfortunately, Dre’s not on stage. Iovine is.
He was a record producer for 20 years before starting Interscope records. “Degradation of music” from the digital music. “It’s one thing to have music stolen…but it’s another thing to destroy the quality of it.” Beats is working on everything from the file to the PC to improve sound quality. Headphones, speakers, direct to the consumer.
“Did you know that the industry records at 24-bit,” but ships to iTunes in 16-bit. (He’s right, but that’s not the real problem — the real problem is compression into lossy formats like MP3, which you have to do so that downloads don’t take forever. Lossless 16-bit files sound just as good as CDs.)
He’s also talking about the fact that most PCs have terrible on board sound systems, they’re made for talk. He talked to a PC company engineer (no name of the company) and this person says they start by budgeting $0.50 for sound equipment on a typical PC, then go down from there.
They have shipped 1 million PCs with Beats audio now. PC makers need differentiation. “HP is stepping forward and it wants to own music.”
“Our conduit for emotion is sound.” No technology company, no car company knows how to interpret it. Only music people do. Iovine and Dr. Dre both made records fror 20 years. “We can guarantee you that HP’s laptops actually feel the way the music feels in the studio to us, that’s the only PC in the world that can do that.”
11:32: Rubinstein’s back now. Now Steven McArthur from HP is talking about third-party apps.
(An audience member just quipped “this is the event that will never end.”)
“Facebook users rank the WebOS app for Facebook as the best one on the market today.” WebOS calendar, photo, and video all sync, comments are integrated into pictures, friends into contacts, and so on.
SelfAware games, created WordAce, combines word games and Texas Hold’em poker. They built their own in-app payment, and are taking full advantage of WebOS multitasking — a new game called Fleck.
A 14-year-old developer named Connor LaCombe created an entire company based around WebOS, Kandutech.
There will be a TouchPad music app, access to the HP movie store, choice of e-reader applications including Kindle.
11:45: Now Randall Rothenberg, chief digital officer from Time, Inc., is showing People Magazine on the tablet. Photographs look good.
Now a plug for Time publications as an advertising platform. “You’re all familiar with People Magazine, your wives subscribe, you may subscribe. What you may not realise is that People reaches 45 million people per week.” Web sites are reacing 49 million uniques, mobile apps reaching 11 million.
Rothenberg met David Packard back in the day, and this device shows his spirit of innovation.
Rothenberg: Time’s research predicts xponential growth in tablet sales expected, with 1 in 5 adults projected to own a tablet by 2014.
Holy cow, it’s yet ANOTHER speaker — Todd Bradley, who kicked the event off almost two hours ago.
HP is planning to take WebOS to other devices, including printers and some form factors you haven’t seen before. “Our commitment is to extend the WebOS experience across devices for our customers, and creating the broadest ecosystem to our parrtners.”
Here’s news: WebOS is coming to the PC. Whoa–did Steve Ballmer just have a heart attack?
“Do the maths on two PCs per second. You easily exceed 100 million devices with WebOS deployed annually. That’s the start of something pretty big.”
It’s true that HP hasn’t sold many WebOS devices yet. But shipping it on that many PCs could get developers excited about the platform, which leads to a bunch of apps.
Wow, now they’re playing an advertisement with a remake of “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed. “Everybody print.” How you feel about that probably depends on how you feel about the original song. Hope Reed got a nice check.
Serena Williams and MC Hammer are in the audience.
OK, that’s a wrap. We’ll be following up with more posts from the event.
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