MediaFile

HP’s TouchPad tablet: The reviews

Hewlett-Packard’s decision to enlist funnyman Russell Brand to promote its new TouchPad tablet in a series of online videos seems to have been the right one. People love the ads. Whether consumers will warm to the device itself remains to be seen, though.

HP pitches the TouchPad as a workhorse that’s a boon to productivity and a marvel of multitasking, but which can also hold its own as an entertainment device. The Wi-Fi enabled tablet, which hit U.S. shelves on July 1 (at $500 for 16 GB model, $600 for 32 GB), is up against some serious competition from Apple’s standard-bearing iPad models and a stable of well-regarded Android alternatives.

HP is smart to trumpet the TouchPad’s ability to play Web video and multimedia formats such as Adobe Flash, which Apple has refused to support on its devices despite demands from its own customers. But reviews of the 9.7-inch tablet, which runs on Palm’s webOS mobile software, could so far be characterized as tepid at best. Overall, they seem to suggest that while HP should be praised for some of the TouchPad’s features, it falls short on too many other crucial elements. Here’s a sampling of what’s been said so far:

Walt Mossberg, Wall Street Journal: “Despite its attractive and different user interface, this first version is simply no match for the iPad. It suffers from poor battery life, a paucity of apps and other deficits.”

Computerworld: “The TouchPad is caught in a no-man’s land for tablets. On the plus side, it supports full multitasking, plays Flash and has the best onscreen keyboard around, making typical tablet tasks easier. However, it’s also chunky, overweight and lacks the apps that are needed to compete with the iPad.”

Palm Chief promises “hits” for HP

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Six months after Hewlett-Packard announced it was buying smartphone pionners Palm  for $1 billion, technology watchers are still waiting to see just what emerges from the high-profile marriage.

Palm chief Jon Rubinstein still isn’t tipping his hand on any details around smartphones and tablets that are due next year from the new HP unit. But he certainly made no effort to manage expectations on Tuesday at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

“It’s absolutely a hits business…We have several products that will clearly be hits when they come out,” said Rubinstein, who predicted “tremendous growth” in devices based on webOS, the Palm platform that HP acquired when it bought the company this year for roughly $1 billion.

HP buys Palm — who cares?

HP’s deal to buy Palm underlines the keenness of PC vendors to jump into the booming smartphone game, but will likely have very little impact on the smartphone market. HP has agreed to pay $1.2 billion for loss-making Palm, best known in recent years as the investment target of U2 lead singer Bono. The firm only sold 2.4 million smartphones in the last 12-month period, giving it just over 1 percent of the market.

In the last few years all top PC vendors — including Acer, Lenovo and Dell — have rushed to the surging smartphone market hoping to boost profits. So far only Apple has succeeded, and it has taken over two years for it to build up global phone distribution.

Top smartphone vendors Nokia, RIM and Apple boast much higher profit margins than PC vendors. HP’s gross margin for its most recent quarter was 22.8 percent, just half Research in Motion’s 45.7 percent margin, while Apple’s was 41.7 percent.

CES: Palm’s webOS could maybe work for a tablet but…

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Since everybody else seems to be doing it, Palm chief Jon Rubinstein was asked if he might add tablets to the company’s line of smartphones based on webOS.

We were left us a little bit wiser, but not that much, after his response from the question from Kara Swisher of All Things Digital on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Rubinstein’s first reaction to the tablet question was this:

“We’re a very small company so we’ve limited resources and need to stay focused.”

from DealZone:

Pricey Palm attracts attention

If you want to take a bite out of Apple’s piece of the staggeringly huge (but difficult to quantify in $$$ terms) smartphone market pie, you’d better either have the magical new “thing” or be willing to spend to buy it.

As Anupreeta Das reports, Palm – one of the stalwart originals in the mobile handset space -- has remade itself into a terrific target with the success of its Pre. Palm’s stock got a jolt this week on talk that Nokia could be considering a bid. But as she explains, Palm may prove to be too pricey a purchase, even for those with deep pockets.

Since introducing the Pre, Dell, Microsoft, Nokia and Motorola have been mentioned as possible suitors. If one of these cash-rich companies was to bid for Palm today, it would be targeting a stock that has quadrupled this year. Complicating matters, “details on how many units it has sold are skimpy, making it difficult to value the success of Palm's turnaround story,” she reports.

Apple cuts off Palm Pre sync (again)

It should probably come as no surprise, but Apple has again cut off iTunes syncing privileges for Palm’s Pre, the latest dig in their tit-for-tat over Palm’s smartphone. Apple’s newest version of iTunes, launched yesterday, disables the sync.

In July, Palm updated its webOS software to allow Pre users to sync the handset with iTunes, Apple’s ubiquitous media management software, where millions of people store their music and videos–after Apple had disabled such functionality in an earlier iTunes update.

At the time, Palm also complained to the USB Implementers Forum — which helps support and promote the USB interface –  about the sync cutoff.

Analysts question T-Mobile’s choice of myTouch over Hero

 Some analysts worry that T-Mobile USA may have missed a trick by opting for a new Android device, myTouch 3G, which is mostly the same as HTC’s first one, the G, except for its slimmer shape and lack of a physical keyboard.

According to T-Mobile USA Chief Technology Officer Cole Brodman, the No. 4 U.S. carrier currently has no plans to sell Hero, another HTC phone that runs Google’s Android but has an updated user interface that looks similar in some ways to Palm Pre.

From today until July 28, T-Mobile USA customers can order the myTouch online with the potential to have their phones deliverd before its national launch stores on Aug. 5. Brodman says myTouch, with its nifty travel case, personalizable covers and T-Mobile recommendations for hot applictions, will appeal to a broader audience than G1. The idea is that myTouch’s sleek shape and Android’s straightforward user interface will encourage T-Mobile customers who had never bought a smartphone before to now consider this one.

Dell and Palm – Who needs whom?

When Dell hired Motorola’s cell phone president Ron Garriques in 2007, the talk was that the PC giant was preparing to enter the smartphone market.

More than two years later, Dell is still without a handheld gadget.

Instead of trying to build its own smartphone, Dell should simply acquire Palm, said Collins Stewart analyst Ashok Kumar in a note to investors on Friday.

Kumar posits that a Dell acquisition of Palm would help both companies, giving Dell a hot new product in Palm’s recently-released Pre, while giving Palm the deep pockets necessary to hang with the big guys.

iSuppli Breaks down the Palm Pre

We know that Palm built the Pre phone, but who made its guts and brains? According to research firm iSuppli that distinction goes to Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, Sony, and Samsung Electronics Co,  the leading component suppliers for the device.  iSuppli cracked up the phone to see what’s going on inside.

Among the highlights:

* The Pre uses an advanced Low-Temperature Polysilicon LCD display. The display, made by Sony (although Palm may get such displays from others too) is a 16-million color LCD.
* The touch screen controller chip is an integrated circuit from Cypress Semiconductor.
* Its applications processor portion centers on TI’s OMAP3430 applications processor
* Its wireless interface portion revolves around the Qualcomm MSM6801A baseband processor.
* Elpida was identified as the supplier of its SDRAM.
* Pre makes use of Samsung’s flash memory.

Andrew Rassweiler, director and principal analyst of iSuppli’s “teardown services” said Palm took a more expensive approach to build the Pre than other iPhone-like smartphones.

When it comes to Apple, what’s a bargain? Its stock, maybe

The audience at Apple’s Worldwide Developers’ conference seemed pumped about the new high speed iPhone — and the price cuts. So, too, do everyday consumers, at least the ones I’ve spoken to. Bloggers? They also seemed pleased, for the most part. Silicon Alley Insider said that compared with the new iPhone, “the competition is nowhere in sight.”

But what about analysts and investors? After all, Apple is running a business here and whether the price cuts (and perhaps lower margins) and new iPhone features will make a difference in the bottom line is not to be overlooked.

Well, rest easy. Wall Street numbers crunchers had the same reaction as just about everyone else. J.P. Morgan in a note to clients raised its price target on Apple shares to $155 from $135; Barclays upped its target to $173; Caris raised its target to $170; Credit Suisse raised its taget to $165; and Susquehanna increased its target to $170.