So, HP makes the surprise announcement last week that they will no longer be selling webOS devices. That means no more of the Pre, Pixi, or Veer smartphones or the recently released TouchPad. And then, in one of the more shocking moves to me, it seemed that there was a bit of a fire sale for TouchPads. As of Friday night and Saturday morning, I was reading reports of people getting TouchPads for $99 and $150. That caused folks to jump for the TouchPad where it wasn’t as nice a purchase at $350 and higher.
Many of the people that went for the TouchPad were developer-types. They wanted to see and explore some of the fun that is the webOS mobile platform. Indeed, its a pretty platform. My best friend and his wife both had Pre smartphones and remarked all the time how much they liked it. They remarked about it even more after a recent upgrade to Android devices – they miss the simplicity and style of its functionality.
For myself, I’ve had experience with the Pre and Pixi smartphones – both were interesting, albeit not quite as polished as I would like. Yet, I’d rock one. I wanted to purchase the Pre 3 at some point this year as a backup mobile. Not for development purposes, I just enjoyed it and could see it in my pocket.
It wasn’t for the apps though. I genuinely enjoyed the fact that the webOS platform just got out of the way and didn’t demand my attention. Things like the ability to see text messages and other notifications without being distracted from the application that I’m in or aggregating the contact lists and merging similar contacts without much fuss. Things like that made it efficient to just live with, and then not think about the mobile, but what it enabled.
I saw the same thing with the TouchPad. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed my time with this iPad. And you can say overly so since I’ve been drawing and doing a ton more with Evernote. But, it still feels like it could be a more polished experience. I don’t want to have to download several applications to collect all of my online picture galleries. I’d rather have a file manager that has hooks to Dropbox and online document repositories, not have to use several applications and cobble together a solution.
Where the TouchPad seems to have caught on towards being something for developers, I wonder if in its simplicity for just using it that it will have that “just lives well” appeal for many people? You know, something that will for the most part “just work,” and then if there’s anything new to do that either through the browser or the fact that webOS is essentially a browser-like OS, that it would be incredibly simple for some folks to simply evolve the device as their use of the web evolves.
My friend Kevin Purcell recently wrote an article saying that the TouchPad wouldn’t be a good purchase. To some extent, he’s right. There’s going to be no hardware support, few developers pushing it, and thin online communities. But, what if the reason for having a webOS device wasn’t the apps and support? What if people just found it pleasant to live with as it is? What then? Could the voices that seem to drive mobile thought and activity deal with a mobile platform that’s dead to developers to alive to enabling life?
What happens in computing when we are no longer playing the role of system admins, beta testers, and product reviewers? What if the devices and services were efficient, intelligent, and evolved with our needs? What if it wasn’t the application that mattered, but how we applied ourselves to live? How do we define mobile/web computing then? Are folks even able to receive such a shift in perception?