Rewind six weeks, and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2011 hype was largely dominated by one gadget: HP’s PalmPad. The webOS slate has been trailed ever since the PC giant stumped up billions for Palm last year. And the general feeling among the tech illuminati was that the Las Vegas gadget show, which saw the original Pre debut two years ago, would mark its debut.
But with companies’ stands being dismantled and the focus now switching to next month’s Mobile World Congress, (MWC) the PalmPad is still very much a rumour rather than reality. HP failed to bring webOS to the party and now the wait is on to see when it’ll unleash a slate which many believe has all the makings of a proper iPad battler.
However, has HP scored an own goal by keeping everyone waiting? In a large part, yes.
Before last week, only the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab were official in the battle for tablet supremacy. Now a slew of amazing new Android slates have been unveiled, with efforts from Motorola, Toshiba, LG and Panasonic all impressing. HP probably thought it would have been drowned out by the clamour for Google-backed tablets, but that’s not necessarily the case.
The Android tablets are all still a distance off: Android 3.0 Honeycomb isn’t anywhere near complete and we’re looking at a long wait before these iPad rivals are on shelves. Surely a retail-ready PalmPad would have had the tech press drooling and the Android fanatics from rival companies rightly worried?
And that’s not all. Releasing it at or around MWC also raises other issues. The iPad 2 is expected as soon as February 1st if Digg’s Kevin Rose is to be believed. And HTC is likely to be on hand with its Scribe slate. The latter owned MWC last year and chances are it won’t want to let that position slip. HP is going to need to get its timing right. t
Of course, the counter-argument is that it needs to get it perfect from the start. The Palm Pre 2, while classy in terms of webOS 2.0, was still not up to speed in terms of its plasticky build and limited availability. The PalmPad will have to be rock- solid and offer a unique experience at the same time. The software isn’t a worry, but the hardware is.
Still, HP will need to cash in on its Palm investment soon. The failure of the Pre to live up to the hype will surely act as a cautionary tale and hopefully show that a swift release and well thought out marketing campaign is essential. With Apple back for a second bite at the tablet cherry and Android rivals lining up, it could be that time is already running out for the PalmPad.