Nov 012011

In spite of the last two months of speculations that there will be another batch of HP Touchpad tablets hitting stores in October or November 2011, as of November 1 the only way to buy it at the same heavily discounted price as in August 2011 is at Best Buy, where the 32 GB HP Touchpad can be bought for $150, but only when bundled with an HP computer.

For those who really want one, these leftovers may be the last chance, as HP has killed production of the Touchpad after the unsuccessful attempt to compete with Apple and other highly priced tablets earlier this year. Still, once heavily discounted, this tablet had an overnight popularity boom, virtually disappearing from the shelves in August 2011.

I bought my 16 GB model for $100 late in August 2011 when most of them were gone, only by a pure coincidence and a kind and informative local Best Buy sales rep. I spent about 20 minutes waiting in line around 8 a.m. one morning and I’m very happy with that decision.

The best feature of this gadget however, is its ability to run (modified) Android firmware, thanks to a group of open source enthusiasts. In my previous posts about this tablet I agreed with recommendations against buying it for this reason because there are no guarantees, but I must change my story because I installed CyanogenMod test (alpha) version of Android on it and I haven’t used webOS since. Although it does have some nice features, webOS is much slower. This tablet on Android feels like it’s on steroids, with very zippy performance without overclocking, while in webOS I had some noticeable sluggish performance and lag even after overclocking.

The very good performance on Android confirms that the Touchpad has a very capable dual core CPU and hardware platform so I mostly blame the awkward software solutions for this failure. It seems like the entire HP team, including their upper management, had either never played with other tablets or never used this one extensively, and so they let it go live with sluggish performance. This didn’t have to be a suicide run.

The CPU seems to be factory underclocked to 1.2 GHz, and most techies like us overclock it easily and without problems to to its nominal 1.5 GHz speed, while some go even higher to stunningly fast 1.7 or even 1.8 GHz. I was running it at 1.5 GHz in webOS. Although I tested it successfully at 1.5 and 1.7 GHz in Android, I usually keep it either at 1.2 or at 1.5 GHz with very little effect on battery life at the higher speed, but I don’t want to give you any crazy ideas. According to my experience this tablet is so fast on Android that there’s really no need to overclock it.

To give credit where due, webOS is (was?) a great mobile operating system. However, the lack of competitive response times in this case will probably cost it its previously well deserved place on the market, or maybe even its existence. Although most of them probably can’t be blamed for this, unfortunately all webOS development teams may suffer, unless the entire platform gets sold and successfully ported to another phone or tablet manufacturer. Just a reminder how important it is to worry about the entire project and not only about your own part.

Some technology experts believe that HP might resurrect the Touchpad with Android on it. Although I’d love to see that, I think it won’t happen for a number of reasons:

First, some technology rumors circling around last week were that HP is testing the Touchpad with Windows 8 on it. The first version of the HP Slate tablet which I had a chance to see and play with (and which was much slower and more cumbersome than the Touchpad) had an earlier version of Windows on it, which shows HP’s committment to Microsoft.

This also leads me to the second reason why I doubt I’ll see HP revive the Touchpad with Android on it – according to my past observations HP and Compaq have been good buddies with Microsoft for decades and under the table they may get some great incentives if they stick to and promote their OS. The big MS is huge on lobbying and little tricks and incentives to “persuade” manufacturers to run a “better” system.

The third reason is that I doubt HP would risk getting sued by Apple by selling Touchpad officially running Android because of Apple’s current legal bullying of many phone and tablet manufacturers who are selling phones and tablets with Android OS, hoping to choke competition. Of course it’s too late for Apple, as Samsung is already winning worldwide and HTC already surpassed Apple in the USA, but they have induced some fear with huge lawsuits when they can’t keep their products better.

Nevertheless, even if HP revives the Touchpad with Windows 8 on it, most of people with Android phones and some technical affinities will probably do what I’ve done already – install Android CyanogenMod on it and be very happy with it.

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