June 30, 2011, 10:46 AM — It's become a tiresome refrain: This time, [insert product name here] will dethrone the iPad. A year ago, it was all those promised Android tablets, the vast majority of which never saw the light of day (and the few that did never should have). Then this spring it was the Motorola Mobility Xoom, which made a respectable showing but fell short in too many areas. Then came the disastrous BlackBerry PlayBook from Research in Motion, a study in how not to design a tablet. More recently, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 showed some strength, but undermined itself with that mix of innovation, bald-faced Apple "inspiration," and uneven execution that has come to define the Android platform.
Now we have the long-awaited Hewlett-Packard TouchPad, the first competitor to the iPad from the world's leading computer maker, and a competitor based on WebOS, Palm's tantalizing but failed great hope in the early smartphone wars from June 2009. The HP TouchPad -- unveiled today and available in stores this weekend -- brings many of WebOS's strengths in the new 3.0 version that debuts with the TouchPad (though most of the cool features in the TouchPad were first delivered in WebOS 2.0 last September for smartphones), and the die-hard Palm and WebOS communities will cheer its continued march. Despite some compelling innovations, the TouchPad is hampered by the same kinds of fit-and-finish issues that mar some Android devices, as well as some odd design decisions that result in a pokey, limited performer.
Plainly put, the TouchPad is a mediocre tablet that poses no threat to the iPad or to Android tablets such as the Galaxy Tab 10.1 or Xoom. Even though the iPad 2's high bar is no secret, it once again appears that corner-cutting or rush to market has been allowed to tie a potentially strong tablet's arm behind its back.