HP's WebOS tablet: How much developer support is really needed?

Summary:Hewlett-Packard's WebOS 3.0 beta 1 has been outed and by most accounts TouchPad looks very interesting. The conventional wisdom is that HP will have trouble because of third party app support. Maybe.

Hewlett-Packard's WebOS 3.0 beta 1 has been outed and by most accounts TouchPad looks very interesting. The conventional wisdom is that HP will have trouble because of third party app support.

PreCentral has a video walkthrough of the SDK and the video is definitely intriguing. Although HP's webOS is clearly a beta, it looks like a contender in the tablet market.

The problem: Apps.

GigaOm's Kevin Tofel notes that "the TouchPad’s biggest challenge to success will be the quality and amount of third-party software."

Quality won't be that much of an issue. HP can buy a few big names to produce good apps as a starter set. The question is how much quantity is needed for HP to get buy.

If HP can garner enough seed apps, get the pricing down and offer a compelling hardware-UI combo there will be a nice virtuous cycle for developers.

Simply put, HP doesn't need 200,000 apps. It just needs the 1,000 to 5,000 tablet apps everyone has to have. From there, pricing and the UI will make a difference.

I'd give HP a puncher's chance to get enough apps to make the TouchPad a go. HP will be embedding the WebOS on most of its printers and PCs. That volume---more than 100 million devices---can serve as a honeypot for WebOS developers. Now it's unclear what developers will do with this printer-PC-tablet relay, but all you need is a few killer apps to kick the cycle off.

HP CEO Leo Apotheker said last month:

“We’ll be shipping this (WebOS) on dedicated devices—smartphones and our tablet—in June. From that date there will be wave after wave to support the WebOS.”

For me, I'd use the tablet primarily as a Web surfing and email tool with a dash of apps. If that's enough for the average bear, HP's TouchPad could work nicely in a tablet market where no Apple rival is able to step up to the plate.

Related: HP's strategy: A credibility check

HP’s WebOS target: 100 million devices

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Laptops, Mobile OS, Mobility, Software Development, Tablets

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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