I wrote a few weeks ago that tablet manufacturers are missing the point when they use a desktop OS like Windows 7 in order to be compatible with desktop software. That post was written after reading about HP’s slate, which was a Windows 7 device, so basically a netbook without a keyboard. I argued that a touchscreen-specific OS and software should be used on tablets; using desktop on tablets has been tried for the past decade and hasn’t worked. There are two valid OSes right now: iPhone OS and Android. Unfortunately for tablet makers, only Apple can use iPhone OS, leaving Android as the only current choice.
Well now it’s being reported that HP has cancelled the slate and decided instead to create a webOS tablet after buying Palm, who created and owns webOS, last week. So it seems like HP does understand the market now. While other manufacturers will have to find ways to differentiate from the other Android slates in the long run: exclusive software, form factor, battery life, and price, HP can build up webOS as a viable alternative to Android and either use it exclusively on their machines if they can get enough developer support, or license it to the other manufacturers to make money on licensing fees and increase attractiveness to developers. webOS already has some great interface features with regards to multitasking and notifications.
webOS has an opportunity to capitalize on the weaknesses of its competitors: iPhone OS and Android. iPhone OS’s closed system has its benefits, but it also leaves it vulnerable to a well-executed open system. Android is an open system that is growing strong, but it does have an issue with fragmentation in the market. The variety of devices using various versions of Android means that developers building apps for the latest version of Android are only hitting 27% of the Android market. Even the official twitter app on Android only works on 27.2% of devices. If Google keeps churning out new versions at such a fast pace, this may continue to be an issue. In the end, it will come down to the software support; can webOS get enough developer support to create a strong app store. Even if HP fails at this, they can still compete with the other OEMs using Android for tablets, which is a far better choice than Windows 7 or any other desktop OS.
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