webOS is back in the headlines, with owner HP deciding to permanently slash the cost of its TouchPad tablet in the US. The slate briefly saw its price briefly cut by $100 at the start of August to entice new punters and now the computer cobbler and wannabe mobile giant has decided to make those new low price points stick.
That means US punters can pick up the slate for $399 for a 16GB model and $499 for a 32GB model. Officially, the UK hasn’t seen any drop, although Amazon is listing the 16GB model at £385 rather than the £399 RRP and the 32GB edition at £425 rather than £479.
There’s no doubt that this will help the slate sell, even if it has infuriated some early adopters. HP was in an awkward position: appease the hardcore and those who had shown faith in a product that had mixed reviews at best; or try and boost volume and get new consumers onside.
In the end, it’s no surprise that the latter won out, but it’ll be fascinating to see just how many punters go for a TouchPad rather than an Android Honeycomb tablet or an iPad 2. HP has now undercut the latter in the States, but can it really compete with the bestseller? It’s unlikely.
It all raises the question as to whether webOS can really compete at the top table. There’s no denying it’s a stunning, well thought-out operating system. But the sad fact is it’s just not given enough support, with devs clearly unwilling to make apps for the limited number of devices that use webOS in the wild.
Evidently Palm, and now HP, had hoped it could do an Apple and release just a few handsets with the OS that would soon dominate. The problem is its brand just isn’t that strong. webOS might be sharp, but it doesn’t have the same cachet as iOS or Android.
What webOS really needs is greater traction in the smartphone space. That could be coming, with Samsung said to be working on phones using HP’s operating system.
But even if those handsets materialise and other manufacturers get on board, will they really sell as well as Android and iOS with their colossal marketing budget and plethora of apps? It’s highly unlikely.
Despite HP’s billion pound Palm buyout and its clear desperation to succeed in the smartphone and tablet arenas, it’s really going to struggle to hold its own, especially as iOS and Android grow stronger and smaller rivals like Windows Phone get exposure through the likes of Nokia.
webOS is destined forever to be a niche concern. That’s not to say it’s not slick, just that it missed the boat years ago.