[This article was published in the March 2011 issue of PC & Tech Authority. We've republished it here so you can read about webOS in light of today's announcement that the HP Touchpad with webOS will be arriving in Australia next month.]
HP has announced that its Touchpad, boasting a tablet-focused version of webOS – the phone operating system it bought as part of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm – will be available in Australia from August 15, 2011.
It’s already leaked the name of a potential family of devices, the PalmPad, and we know from our experiences with webOS-based smartphones such as the Palm Pre Plus
that it could rival iOS for smoothness.
The benefits of webOS
Palm’s webOS holds a couple of other benefits over iOS. First, it builds social networking into the interface rather than relying on separate apps: HP’s term for this is Synergy, with the OS bringing all your Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft Exchange and Google information together in one unified view.
Multitasking in webOS
Its other big strength is multitasking. Pressing a button brings up all the open apps in a zoomed-out view, so you can flick back and forth between them with the touch of a finger. HP webOS 2 improves multitasking still further via Stacks: this will allow related open apps to be stacked on top of one another in the interface, so if you click on a URL in an email, the website will sit on top of the email when you zoom out to check open apps.
Another new feature is Just Type, a similar idea to Windows 7’s instant search feature, where you type freeform into a textbox and all the relevant programs, documents, emails and websites appear instantly in the results panel.
The weakness for webOS, and probably HP’s biggest challenge, is the lack of apps. HP claims there are “thousands” of apps, but we estimate there are currently fewer than 2000 in the Palm App Catalog (its Apple Store equivalent). If webOS 2 is to be a success, developers will need a lot of enticements to convince them to shift their attention from iOS and Android.