The HP webOS Presentation: Analysis

I finally got to see the full video of the HP webOS presentation from yesterday. Unlike the original Palm webOS presentation from CES several years ago, this wasn’t available as a download. HP went all cheap and stuck it on YouTube. (Where I went and ripped it anyway so I could get screensnaps via vlc.)

The meat of the presentation was a demonstration of the new HP TouchPad. This was virtually buried under the ponderous twin introductions by Todd Bradley …

… and Jon Rubinstein …

… which were full of Suitspeak and who were less lively than malfunctioning animatronics.

They’re probably both smart and capable guys. But their presentations were dreadful, dull, and embarrassing.

It took me about six hours to watch the less than two-hour video because I was dissecting it and shredding it as I was going along. I have a lonnnnng set of transcribed sentences that I planned to post. But I decided that would be too self-indulgent, perhaps too cruel, and probably bore most people anyway.

However, there are bits of it I simply must stab in the name of justice, to try to prevent them from doing that again.

Bradley opens up all poetic about “first experiences.” This was a mistake. Bradley is no poet and the audience isn’t there to listen to his nostalgia and his clumsy segue into the strengths of HP.

This is what he should have done instead:

Hey, everyone. Thanks for showing up. We’ve got some really exciting things today. Everyone knows the story of Palm. How the vision of Jeff Hawkins led to the PDA and then to the first popular smartphone. He was passionate and changed the world. Let me tell you a few things about HP today and why we’ve chosen to continue Palm’s vision. HP was founded by two guys during the Great Depression. How many people would have the guts to strike out on their own at a time like that? Just like Jeff Hawkins, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were passionate too. Did you know one of their first products was used by Walt Disney for making early sound movies? That’s how far back we go. You probably never knew that because HP has been known as a modest and quiet company. Sort of in the background of things. But here’s how savvy HP is: Back in March 1986, HP registered the HP-dot-com domain name. It was the ninth Internet dot-com domain ever to be registered. The ninth! It’s not in our nature to brag, but here are some other statistics for you to think about … [rattle off the same stats]. Now this one is impressive: 88,000 retail locations. Let’s do some math with that. If every one of those stores sold only one of our products every day during one year, that’d be 365 sales times 88,000 — or thirty-two million and one-hundred and twenty thousand. Isn’t that incredible? Just one sale per store per day for one year. Now you know each store is going to sell more than one each day, so just think about how high that sales figure can get in only one year! This is the kind of strength we’re contributing to webOS. We have a very serious commitment to its future. Now here’s Jon to tell you more about the future of webOS.

BAM! No talk of “first experiences,” no crap about “scale.” The points are made cleanly and impressively and quickly. Just establish the points — HP is smart, savvy, and big — make them in a way so people will remember them, and get the hell on with it! (And yes, the above is rough, but it’s off the top of my head and I’m not being paid for this!)

Rubinstein made this Presentation 101 mistake. he said:

Since we launched webOS, we’ve delivered literally hundreds of new features and enhancements to users over the air, including things like video capture, 3D games, enhanced enterprise capabilities, and the list goes on and on.

The trouble is, he wasn’t showing the list! He had this huge screen behind him. It should have been populated with a list! He didn’t have to read each entry, but just think of the damn photo that would have made! He missed the Show of Show and Tell!

And then he made a huge, huge error:

This is the HP Veer.

Cue sound of crickets. Actually, it was worse than that. There was silence.

He went on to say:

In fact, it’s just about the size of a credit card.

When Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Air, he did it by pulling it out of an interoffice envelope. That cemented its dimensions in everyone’s heads. BAM! Just like that. And it led to a ton of videos on YouTube that showed things being pulled out of an envelope. Here Rubinstein had the perfect chance to get audience participation by asking them all to pull out and hold up a credit/debit card as he himself held one up. Then he should have pulled out the Veer and held it next to the card. BAM! Everyone would have understood. People would have jumped on YouTube with videos measuring things against credit cards. Someone might have even done it with a RAZR, a phone just about everyone has seen.

Instead, he held it up without anything for a size comparison and used the big screen for the card trick. FAIL!

(Some people might object and say that with all the cameras, MacBooks, and iPads people in the audience were holding, very few would have reached for a credit card. Fine. HP could have handed out ahead of time some card-sized souvenir plastic that had Please Keep Handy For The Demo printed on it!)

And here is absolute proof they need someone to save them from themselves. Rubinstein said:

Best of all, our webOS devices will be context-aware. Which means they’ll know what content to show based on where they’re docked. This is a really cool feature.

Again, not even the crickets chirped! And this really is a cool and major new feature! Steve Jobs would have sold that. Here’s how:

Wait. You thought that charger was great? There’s one more thing. If you leave your iPhone charging at home, you can set it to show your photo album. But if you charge your iPhone at work, you can set it to show your Calendar. And that will happen automatically every time. That’s right — the iPhone will know where it is. Isn’t that great? We call this Intelligent Localization. We think it’s one more feature that shows how cool the iPhone can be. No one else has this. Only Apple does. This is how deeply we think about our products and about how people use them in their everyday lives. [cue sound of wild frothing applause from a grateful multitude — not Rubinstein’s casket-like silence!]

Rubinstein said this about the TouchPad:

First thing you’ll notice is that TouchPad’s virtual keyboard is the same one you learned to type on …

No, it isn’t. It was made of keys in 3D. Not a drawing under a plate of glass. Then he said:

… with a number row to eliminate time-consuming switching.

He just throws that away. So lame. This is how Jobs would have sold it:

There are other tablets out there that ignore what people have learned to use. We here at Apple think that’s a bad idea because it sets up friction and wastes time. So our keyboard has a number row at the top. And we’ve found that it really makes a big difference for our users. It’s a small touch but the kind of detail people expect from us. When you have a bigger screen, you can do better things like that. But that’s not all. You wouldn’t think we could be innovative with something like a keyboard. But wait until I show you what else we’ve done!

This was the worst thing to fall out of Rubinstein’s mouth:

TouchPad is compatible with HP’s industry-leading printing solutions.

See, if you insist on sentences like that, you should have an animatronic doing the presentation. Human beings should not speak so robotically.

Mercifully, they handed the demo over to someone who spoke entirely extemporaneously — because he knew his shit.

What follows is the meat of why everyone was there. We got to see:

– Touchstoned Pre 3 transfer an SMS to the TouchPad.

– a Kindle for webOS icon on the Favorites screen that no one doing live coverage I was following even mentioned.

– a mail application that’s really an improvement on both Apple and Android. I’m not so certain about having to drag a handle, though. Why not tap it and have it automagically expand one column? Tap is used to automagically close it back. A puzzling inconsistency! Multi-select email deletion is another improvement over the others.

– QuickOffice. Full version bundled that is also cloud-aware. It should be noted that while QuickOffice can read Adobe PDFs, it cannot do Google Books PDFs. We will need Adobe Reader X for that.

– a demo of email Card stacks, explaining how it corresponds to how people actually work. This was absolutely brilliant and should have gotten some mad applause.

– demo of Flash video Kung-Fu Panda 2 movie trailer playing. The live coverage was FAIL. It claimed the video was playing only on the big video screen and not on the TouchPad itself. This was false. You can see the video beginning on the TouchPad and finishing on the TouchPad. That was for real. And that was killer video performance!

– allrecipes site builds quickly and completely on the browser. What’s disturbing is that he does not show any magnification. No tap to zoom? No pinch-out and in? Is the browser unfinished or are these features just not there?

– unobtrusive Notifications. What webOS pioneered and kicks ass with!

– the adjustable soft keyboard. Which is really brilliant. That there was no applause from the audience is disappointing. People swapping their keyboards via 3rd-party software on Android happens all the frikkin time. webOS has several built-in from the start! This is WIN! What’s not shown when typing is any autocorrect or word shortcut feature. Perhaps those are still coming.

– a third-party Just Type plug-in for Twitter. I’m not sure what that means, not having used webOS. Someone in Comments clarify if a plug-in is different than a full-blown client like Bad Kitty. But I love that you can just type and select the program after. This is something along the lines of Jef Raskin‘s user interface thinking and is a real innovation.

– photo app integrated with social photo services. But no mention of two services many people use: Flickr and TwitPic. I hope there is some way to add those.

– printing from the photo app to HP printers as old as a few years (the website says they can be up to 5 years old although they need a firmware upgrade to enable this). Well, there are more HP printers out there than there are Samsung printers — the Galaxy Tab can only print to a Samsung printer. This printing feature can be a very significant thing. Imagine visiting someone with your TouchPad and showing them some photos. Any of them could be wirelessly printed if they have a compatible printer.

– a 3D game demo. Games aren’t my thing so I can’t judge this. But if it took them “only a few days” to do that, I’m impressed as hell and wonder what other slick graphics will come from other developers.

– Amazon Kindle app (Amazon Announces Free “Buy Once, Read Everywhere” Kindle App for webOS TouchPad). I hope that damn PageCurl is an option that can be turned off!

– interruption via phone call that is then switched to video call. This is the future!

– Touch To Share, which is very interesting. I guess it’s quicker than going through wireless discovery and a pick list. But I’d like to see an option like that too. Why? Because why should I get off the sofa, grab the Pre 3 off its charger, and then tap it to the TouchPad? Let me stay on the sofa and drop it into some sort of Transfer Box on the Pre 3 for opening/seeing later.

Then the presentation degenerates into something like the Academy Awards, with the Qualcomm guy coming out to shill his chips. That was so unwanted.

Jimmy Iovine’s talk was halting but it was heartfelt. I had no idea what Beats was about. I thought it was some kind of marketing ploy. Now I understand that it’s not. I’m not sure if my ears will be able to tell the difference, however. I was raised with static-filled AM radio and scratchy 45s and LPs. My listening discernment was destroyed ages ago.

This presentation left questions:

1) Is there pinch-out/in of photos?
2) Is there pinch-out/in in the web browser? [Update: See here.]
3) How does TouchPad Copy & Paste work?
4) Can existing webOS apps be used on TouchPad?
5) Will there be Adobe Reader X for webOS?
6) Where did B&N’s Nook software go?
7) No Google Maps?
8) No YouTube?
9) No Pandora? (I think I saw the icon, however.)
10) Why wasn’t the App Catalog shown?
11) What’s the TouchPad’s battery life?
12) What. Is. The. Damn. Price?!!?

There are more, but those will do.

Despite the bludgeoning I had to take watching the video, suffering through the inept Suitspeak, it was worth it for the TouchPad demo.

webOS works the way I work. It’s not like I haven’t used an iPad more than once. I’ve had many trips to the Apple Store to mooch on one with a variety of tests. And many was the time I wished there was a Card View-like multitasking interface! The current pop-up bottom banner in iOS is more like the Recently Used menu on my ancient Palm LifeDrive. I don’t think that’s the best way to do things in the 21st century. It’d be as if Mac OS X stuck with the original Switcher.

People will argue that iOS has a ton of apps, Android has its own large set of apps, and webOS has too few to attract customers.

Well, a lot of the future of webOS depends on how HP will price the Veer, the Pre 3, and especially the TouchPad. Sales will attract developers. And you can’t tell me the TouchPad won’t sell.

HP also plans to put webOS on their new desktops and notebooks.

I don’t know how that will work out on a non-touchscreen notebook, but on something like the new Touchsmart 610, it’ll be killer. The more desktops that have webOS, the larger the potential audience for developers. People tend to forget that the iPhone went for a year before it had an SDK for developers. Yet the iPhone still sold. And people can’t run an iOS app on a Mac OS X desktop. What if webOS apps can run on HP’s phones, tablets, and desktops? Windows on the desktop led to Windows Mobile. Is it unreasonable to expect a desktop webOS app would help sales of portable webOS devices? I don’t think so.

I think HP has a very good chance of pulling all of this off in a very big way.

And I want an HP TouchPad.

I also want a better presentation next time too.

Previously here:

Think Beyond Palm
HP’s Think Beyond: First Impressions

8 Comments

Filed under webOS

8 responses to “The HP webOS Presentation: Analysis

  1. Eric

    Pandora’s there. Check out your screenshot where you mention the Kindle for WebOS app. It’s in the third row, far right.

    Just as important to me is seeing Evernote on there. (3rd row, 3rd from left.)

    Price and battery life will be the deciding factor for me. If they get that right, I’m shifting off Android to this. Most of the apps I really want (Kindle, Kobo, Evernote, Pandora) are there, and I’m sure Angry Birds will follow, if it’s not already.

    • mikecane

      Yes, I wondered if that was Pandora and actually had that in my notes but didn’t make it through to the post. Thanks for pointing out those things.

    • nhavar

      Angry Birds, Need For Speed, Sims, Monopoly and a number of other popular iOS and Android games are already there.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention The HP webOS Presentation: Analysis « Mike Cane's xBlog -- Topsy.com

  3. Danielle d

    I was wondering since I have a Sony reader would I be able to download the Sony app to this?

  4. Pingback: Grandes cambios en el mundo de la informática con móviles y tabletas

  5. Greate Review about Web O.S!

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