Finally! After years of waiting on the edge of our seats, Palm's superb WebOS touch-based mobile operating system is launching in Australia. Sure, it only took three years and the sale of Palm to HP for a billion US dollars to make it happen, but it's finally launching down under, courtesy of the new HP TouchPad tablet.
Boasting a 9.7-inch touchscreen, integrated 1.3MP camera and the ability to charge wirelessly via induction, the TouchPad is the fourth tablet operating system to launch in Australia (discounting the devices that criminally incorporate Windows, of course). With the market rapidly becoming more and more competitive, HP needs something to make the TouchPad stand up to make itself a viable contender in the tablet space.
WebOS should be that point of difference for HP but, unfortunately, it has a huge hurdle to overcome… WebOS was exciting three years ago. Today? Not so much. Thanks to Palm’s financial difficulties over the past few years and the fact there hasn't actually been any WebOS devices in Australia before now, what should be new and exciting looks a little old and tired. The competition has not only caught up to WebOS, but also surpassed it in many ways.
More to the point, however, is that the early adopters who wanted to ride the WebOS train years back when it launched have all moved on to other operating systems.
Even worse though, is HP’s distribution strategy. Costing $599 for 16GB or $699 for 32GB, the TouchPad will be available from August 15 all around the country, exclusively from Harvey Norman stores. Or in other words, a mass merchant generally shunned by the tech-savvy early adopters HP needs to be selling the TouchPad to.
Exclusivity deals are nothing new in the mobile industry, with both phones and tablets ending up available through limited stores or mobile carriers. But generally, there's always an alternative product from the same manufacturer available through a different store. HTC may have exclusive deals with Telstra for one phone, but you can always get a different HTC phone through Optus of Vodafone.
HP, on the other hand, has no such alternative. The TouchPad is the first WebOS device in Australia - an untested operating system that has the potential to be a huge player, or a footnote in the archives of tablet history. By restricting its availability to a limited number of stores around the country, HP is most likely dooming it to be the latter.