The Developer's Dilemma
HP needs to be given credit where credit is due. Speaking as a developer who writes much of our custom-coded testing automation, webOS is the easiest mobile operating system to write for because it adheres to Web standards like HTML and CSS. Android comes in a close second because everything is Java-based. In comparison, Apple offers granular control over iOS programming, as the framework is object-oriented C, but this translates into a longer learning curve.
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Moving forward, HP faces two problems: documentation and market share. While webOS is easy to adopt, HP provides poor documentation relative to what's accessible via the Apple and Google developer sites. Second, market share continues to be a major reason to hold off on webOS for software developers. Programming ease means nothing when your goal is to make money. However, that requires a large base of users willing to pay for applications. That's one reason iOS continues attracting devs, despite the intricacies of object-oriented programming.
So what comes first? The chicken or the egg? Vendors need tablet users to draw developers, but they also need developers to create apps to attract users. Ultimately, it's HP's job to get developers amped up. And thus far, its success has been limited as a result of getting caught in the Android/iOS crossfire. That seems to be the impetus behind the recent $100-off TouchPad sale. However, HP needs to make that sale price permanent if it wants to really attract a following of any significant volume.
The one thing lacking in this review, which is also lacking in everything being written about webos, is the mention of what I consider one of the standout features of webos: The openness of the platform. With preware installed (free), you have access to thousands of patches and homebrewed apps as well as linux applications. It is possible, for example, to run a full Debian Linux in a chrooted environment (without any cracking or jailbreaking), giving access to OpenOffice, and all other x-server Linux software out there. HP/Palm is the only tablet OS developer that actively encourages the homebrew/open source community in its efforts. As a developer, it is not only the ease of development that is compelling but the huge amount of expressive and creative freedom you get. With the Apple appstore, the walled garden may protect consumers well, but also creates a completely controlled and often repressive and capricious environment for a developer. This openness is the secret sauce behind much of the loyalty of webos users. The os is a joy to use, a joy to explore, and a joy to create new code in. And unfortunately, most reviewers can't or won't take the time to understand this extremely compelling aspect of the OS.
Thank you again for the best review of the touchpad I've seen yet.
Thanks again, Andrew!
HP just announced the $100 off sale from this last weekend is now permanent.
"Effective immediately, the HP TouchPad 16GB Wi-Fi will now be available for $399.99 and the HP TouchPad 32GB Wi-Fi will now be available for $499.99"