Did the HP TouchPad miss the boat on gaming?

Summary:The TouchPad, attempting to compete with Apple/iOS and Android, needed to do something unique, other than just being the non-iOS/non-Android tablet. A strong commitment to gaming, specifically social gaming, might have been that something.

Launched to great fanfare, and more than a few boastful claims about how it would become "number-one-plus" in the still-young consumer tablet field, HP's WebOS-powered TouchPad has come it an ignoble end (along with potentially, HP's entire PC product lineup). The general facts of the TouchPad cancellation have been well-covered already, but less so the impact of the product's gaming integration, or lack thereof.

Apple's iPad hasn't totally nailed the socialization of the game experience required for both shared traditional gaming experiences and commercial gamification efforts, but it certainly has done a lot more than anyone else. GameCenter, the mini-social network built into many of the most popular iOS games collects points and achievements and links you to your friends. Other iOS games connect with Facebook, Twitter, and other social sharing products -- as a rule of thumb only the more seamless versions of that interaction really have an impact on users, but there are some solid examples out there.

Zynga even has a dedicated iOS app for FarmVille, one of its most popular games. That's because the Flash-based Facebook versions of these apps won't run on an iPhone/iPad. It's not as good as having that native support, and only FarmVlle and Zynga Poker have these dedicated cross-platform apps, but it's a start. It's worth noting, however, that the lack of Flash support on iOS (a well-documented issue for years), is a real restriction to using the iPad or iPhone for many pure gamification plays, which are often web/Flash-based.

But Apple is still ahead of the competition, and it's a larger issue that involves all non-Apple tablets, not just the TouchPad. Android tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy, have access to a certain number of game apps (Angry Birds seems to be the default must-have game for any new platform), and they purport to offer the Adobe Flash support needed for the most popular social games, but if you've ever tried to play Facebook games on an Android tablet, you know it can be very hit-or-miss (mostly miss).

The TouchPad, attempting to compete with Apple/iOS, the front-runner in tablets, and also Android, the distant second-place in tablets, needed to do something unique, other than just being the non-iOS/non-Android tablet. A strong commitment to gaming, specifically social gaming, might have been that something, but despite a few Gameloft and EA games coming to the TouchPad store (and Angry Birds, naturally), no one every thought of the the TouchPad as a game-friendly device. Had HP embraced the idea more forcefully, it certainly may not have made enough of a difference, given that the TouchPad was cancelled after just seven weeks, but now we'll never know.

Topics: Mobile OS, Apple, Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets


Texas native Libe Goad resides in New York City and has spent the past decade covering technology and video games for publications including Blender, PC Magazine, Bust, Seventeen and Sync. Libe is currently the Editor-in-Chief of AOL's award-winning Games.com group, covering the growing social and casual games industry. Previously, she... Full Bio

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