I shoved my work laptop aside, kept my main desktop computing to a minimum and decided to try my hand at working -- and living -- with a TouchPad for two full weeks.
What follows here are my thoughts, observations, tips and tricks after my initial run with HP's new tablet. What I want to underscore here -- and will remind you of throughout this story -- is that while I work here at HP and I'm supposed to wave the company flag, these are MY observations as a USER. I will try to be as open with you as possible. And I want you folks reading this to feel free to let me know what you're thinking as well.
The truth is that this is actually half the story. This piece focuses on work functionality while another, over at thenextbench.com, is aimed at more mainstream nerdiness. Take your pick.
SETUP Out of the box, this was a completely painless process for me to get everything synced up and running. Plugged in, powered up, all I had to do was enter my webOS account info and it basically dragged all my contact information from all my different services – Exchange, Google, Facebook, Skype, LinkedIn...you name it. (OK, don't ask about "Friendster.") But, really, that's what Synergy is all about. HP's been talking up how Synergy collects and organizes all your data into one coherent pile. If you already own a Pre / Pixi / Pre2, you're all set. If you're new to the party, it really is pretty painless. Just input your info and it'll sync up in the background. In fact, it sorts photos that you’ve uploaded to places like Facebook and Flickr and tracks them through the built-in photo app.
But something a lot of people don't really talk about is that it's also great for simple cloud backup and retrieval of your apps. I bought into the webOS ecosystem a long time ago and I've downloaded a bunch of apps over the years. If I ever lost a phone (hey, it happens) all I had to do with the new one is log into my webOS account and it'd instantly update everything, including the apps that I had downloaded onto my last phone. And with the setup of the TouchPad, it was interesting to see that is also populated my tablet with the compatible apps I'd been using on my phone. They were just there.
What I’d like to see: Did you know that part of the backup process also saves your bookmarks in the Web browser? (It does.) In my dreams, I’d love to see a way to collect links from all the browsers I use through Synergy as well. But in the meantime, I can settle for using XMarks’s Web interface. Also, while I’m making fantasy requests: I’m on the hunt for a good pan-social network photo uploader. Seeing some of the work that webOS developer, Inglorious Apps, has done gives me hope.
PRODUCTIVITY As a modern blogger-about-town, the TouchPad came in amazingly handy. I didn't have to lug my laptop into meetings or to the local cafes. Let me break down a couple ways that I'd consider the TouchPad an indispensible travel tool.
Notifications: I can't tell you how much this little feature has changed the way I work. I'm trying to do a million things at once throughout the day. Maybe you can relate? So, if I'm too focused on writing a blog (ahem) I run the risk of missing a call, email, tweet or Facebook message that I should be on top of. Not a problem here. In fact, the ability to tie my Pre2 to the TouchPad means that I can field calls through my tablet. The downside: I’m quickly running out of excuses for not getting back to people.
What I'd like to see: A Pre3 – or any phone – in my hand with the 3.0 update so that I can check out SMS functionality in action. Being able to receive and send texts through the TouchPad on top of everything else seems pretty smart to me.
Documents: Being able to actually edit documents on the device is a huge deal. QuickOffice, which comes standard, allows you to view for now. Until the ability to edit documents goes live, I wind up copying text out of emails and documents and just emailing the text back to myself. Obviously spreadsheets need a little more TLC. At least for now you can view them. This is one of those categories where I am looking forward to seeing what the updates bring.
Work-friendly: Yes, I’m at HP so obviously it's going to work in my corporate environment, but how about you? Security tokens in the Web interface for SAP, Exchange...honestly, I haven't heard of many complaints on that front from the people I've spoken with on the matter.
And there are already a couple business-centric apps to get you started. Mighty Meeting lets you host conference call presentations from your pad. Is your Web site running off Wordpress? Download Wordpress for webOS and thank me later. And last, but certainly not least, every TouchPad comes with 50GB of Box.net cloud storage (all you have to do download the app!).
What I'd like to see: Besides the aforementioned document editing, the big thing for me is a remote desktop app like, say, VNC or TeamViewer suited for the TouchPad (Though I know that a Citrix receiver tech preview is available). This is an open call to any and all developers out there: I would love this – and I’m not alone. In fact, I was reading one thread where people were actually considering taking up a collection to make it happen!
PERIPHERALS I dug deep into the wallet and sprung for not only the Bluetooth keyboard and slick Touchstone docking station, but also the case. They each really do serve a purpose. Let me explain…
Touchstone - Since the first Pre, the inductive charging thing has been awesome. Just drop down the device on the charging surface and it takes care of the rest. Unfortunately, the original phone Touchstone only works with the phones (that’s because the inductive charge points need to be located in different places than the tablet – and the TouchPad requires more juice). The new stand though, does a great job serving as a fully functional dock. It’s also a clock among other things in Exhibition mode. Need to get set up straight? The Touchstone’s handy for propping the TouchPad up to whatever angle I want for viewing / typing. I like that it even charges through the TouchPad cover.
Cover – I know people get all jazzed for magical magnetic solutions but more often than not, but I’d prefer a cover that actually – you know – protects your investment and not pop off. And while it seems like a silly, minor point, I do appreciate that the design lets me fold the cover and set the device to several different heights / angles. The hidden Velcro strip ensures the fold-over cover stays where you want it.
Bluetooth Keyboard – I’ve got to say that the keyboard is, well, key if you’re planning to use a tablet for prolonged typing sessions. It connects up quickly…and I even appreciate the unique shortcut keys that toggle things like the notification window, Just Type search and card key so that you can swipe through all the open applications.
What I’d like to see:If you’re inside a document (let’s just say email, for instance) the arrow keys work great. But the pad doesn’t see those arrow keys throughout the entire OS.In card view, it’d be great to be able to use left or right arrow keys to navigate.
PRINTING It feels lame saying that “It just works” … BUT IT DOES. I mean, yes, HP has a vested interest considering our ginormous printer business. If you have a printer sitting on your home network, it’s pretty handy to be able to hit a button and be done with it. No workarounds, no nonsense. For my tests, I used the sexy HP Envy 100 (Wait. Can you actually call a printer, “sexy?”) I will go deeper into my experience with the printer soon enough, but for now I’d like to point you to PC World’s Melissa Perenson, who was thinking the same thing.
Imagine the potential here: Painlessly sending boarding tickets, pictures, presentations, documents….straight to the printer. (Or I could just email the file directly to this ePrint device and the printer does its job.)
What I’d like to see: Column alignment and type treatment inside of QuickOffice need a little tweaking when it comes to printing – and word has it that the software developer is on the case with a fix. Good to hear!
PERFORMANCE The Snapdragon dual core 1.2GHz CPU inside the TouchPad is a pretty high-spec piece of hardware. And I’m waiting – like you guys patiently are – for an over-the-air update. According to Richard Kerris it will address some concerns and give the device a little more gas. Will that boost unleash the ability to really dig into more intensive Flash pages (and let you use Hulu without cache-clearing to your heart’s content)? I’ll have to get back to you on that.
Since I don’t have that nifty update yet, I can’t go into more detail at the moment. But you can bet that the second things are addressed, I’m going to let you know and give you guys some more of my two cents about how it works.
RANDOM THOUGHTS This story, as long as it is, remains an evolving work that I’ll probably update. In fact, I’m still digging around right now for Easter eggs and other goofiness. The few things I picked up so far:
-Run Facebook in Exhibition mode. Not only is it very cool looking as you leave it running, it gives you quick access to updates. If you see something that catches your interest, just tap it and it opens up the Facebook app to the exact update and any comments / links that might be attached to it.
-Hold the card and power button simultaneously to take a screenshot.
-With your TouchPad in Landscape mode (speakers facing up), pull down on a card you can eject it off the screen. Listen carefully for a sound bite from Angry Birds.
-You can still use the classic Konami Code to open developer mode: (“upupdowndownleftrightleftrightbastart”)
-Hold the “.com” button down on the keyboard and it can call up “.net,” “.edu,” and “.org” if you need those.
-Once you download an attachment, tap and hold on it. Release and you get the option to save the file to the device or open it.
And, by the way, I wrote this story -- and most of my other stuff over the past couple weeks -- on the TouchPad. Keep your eyes / ears peeled. I'll do my best to keep you in the loop on updates.
Well, let's hear it. Do you have a TouchPad? What are some of your thoughts? Are there any tricks you've picked up along the way? The floor is yours…