Today HP unveiled the device it will put in the ring with Apple's iPad. Called the TouchPad, it seems very much like the iPad, and on the face of it looks pretty awesome. But there's a possible Achilles' heel in HP's plan.
There's a lot to like about the TouchPad. It's small, it's light, it's thin, and it's pretty powerful thanks to its 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon CPU. It'll run HP's webOS operating system and feature an MPG (multi-touch, physics and gestures) user interface. In the demos webOS's multi-touch support looked breathtaking, blowing away anything Android has to offer, and comes close to the fit and finish of Apple's iOS.
Sure, there are plenty of mysteries. How much the thing will cost? What the battery life is like? Etc, etc ... These will play a key part in determining whether the TouchPad will sink or swim. But there's one aspect of the TouchPad that's even more pivotal to the device's success or failure - apps.
Apple has already built a huge app ecosystem for iOS. Android is far behind Apple, but there's still plenty of momentum there to make stuff happen.
What about HP? What's HP's plan for an app store and an app ecosystem? Where are the developers? Who will create the killer apps?
See, by taking the chance on webOS rather than Android or Windows, HP will have to make sure that TouchPad comes out of the gate backed up by a solid bouquet of apps, and developer commitment to create more.
Developing and fostering a new ecosystem is hard. Just ask Microsoft. Even with a massive wallet to throw at the problem, progress is slow. And don't think that HP can do what Apple did and release a device then work on the app ecosystem ... noooooo! That might have worked a few years ago, but with iOS and Android on the scene, people aren't going to take a chance on a new device with a new (to them at any rate) OS.
TouchPad is going to need apps. Without them, it's dead. Stone dead.
HP, show us your apps!