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HP Touchpad: A Practical, Smart Buy?

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Every now and again, I like to write about technology. Truth be told, I was interested in technology far before I got interested in personal finance... and I raiding my mom's Kiplinger's in middle school - perhaps even in elementary school. Today, I'd like to talk about the HP Touchpad, a new tablet computer in the mold of an iPad. If you've been reading the weekend roundups around here the last few weeks, you know that it's been on my mind. Prior that, I've been writing about my love affair with the Palm Pre for the last two years. The Palm Pre and the HP Touchpad both use the same operating system, which I (and many technology analysts) consider it the best out there. Unfortunately, you probably have never used it since neither Palm nor HP have put together a marketing campaign that compares with Apple's or Google's and they've never had a heavyweight partner like AT&T and Verizon pushing their product like those two companies.

I've been eying the Touchpad for months. However, I've found myself having the same feelings as I had when Apple announce the iPad. It's very cool, but in a lot of ways, it's a toy without a purpose. I typically have my laptop near me at home and when I'm out a smartphone does the job. If I had a lot of one-on-one meetings, I could see using a tablet to open up a page or two, or use it to illustrate something that I'm selling. Could it replace my laptop in the living room? For many people it probably could. For me, as a blogger, I have my doubts about using anything without a real keyboard.

HP Touchpad as a Dedicated Blogging Computer?

Those doubts have started to shift. I'm starting to think that the HP Touchpad would be an ideal blogging platform. My mind started to change when I saw this set-up from Joshua Topolsky, the former editor of Engadget:

The Zen of HP Touchpad, HP Touchstone, and HP Keyboard

In the picture you have the HP Touchpad, the keyboard and the HP Touchstone. The HP Touchstone is the hardest to see, but it's what's holding it up at a good viewing angle. By just sitting on the stand, no plugging in of any cords, the tablet charges. If the keyboard wasn't there, you might think it was a photo picture frame (and it can do that). With only one cord, it's the kind of technology that my wife would love. (I can't even begin to count the cords around our television - it's a mess).

Shortly after that, I saw this official WordPress webOS application and video:

Lazy Man and Money is run by WordPress and I have to say that the demo is extremely compelling. And I'm not saying that just because I want the voice-over guy to read me bedtime stories at night.

One of the difficulties I have with blogging is distraction. I could see creating a blogging nook where I could take the Touchpad and keyboard and get down to business. No longer would I be reading the 157th article about how Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco are going to work out in the Patriots locker room. (At least that's the theory.) This concept may be the final thing I need to push me to buy it.

Is the HP Touchpad a Good Value

Value is always a difficult thing to pin down. A good value for me may not represent a good value for you (the exception I believe is MonaVie - a bad value for everyone). In the case of the Touchpad, I might be able to make a financial case for buying one. It may be a bit of a stretch, and there's at least an 92% chance that I'm trying to convince myself here. I'll let you be the judge.

The HP Touchpad was released at the beginning of the month for $499 for the 16GB version and $599 for the 32GB version. Those prices were little steep for my tastes. I figured I could justify $100 of the price just for the dedicated blogging platform. Unfortunately, that requires buying the keyboard and Touchstone, which together are around $120 in addition to the Touchpad itself.

Then I noticed that with the Touchpad you get a 50GB Box.net account free for life. Box.net customers pay $20 a month for that level service. If was interested in that service (and on some level I am), the Touchpad would pay for itself in a little over two years. If you are a Box.net customer and plan on continuing to be one for the next couple of years, you might as well collect a free Touchpad. Maybe you can sell it to someone who doesn't care about the Box.net account and collect the service for life - for the difference in price of what you buy and sell the Touchpad at.

The next "deal" came directly from HP themselves. This "deal" was for current Palm Pre owners. HP had promised that the Pre would be upgradable to the newest version operating system, but when they started dealing with carriers or limited resources, realized they couldn't deliver on that promise. To "make it right" (their words), they offered $50 off of the 32GB Touchpad. I'm never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but when you break down the difference in cost of a 16GB and a 32GB it comes to $22. The devices themselves are exactly the same except for the 32GB memory chip is $22 more than the 16GB chip. When people buy a 32GB Touchpad vs. a 16GB Touchpad at the $100 retail difference, HP collects $78 extra dollars. HP, in offering this "deal", would still be making $28 by upselling the customers who take advantage of it. If you wanted a deal on new webOS phone or don't need the 32GB version, you don't get anything... oh and this "deal" expires at the end of the month.

If you couldn't tell I wasn't happy with that offer. On one hand, I have to appreciate the effort to turn a negative into a positive. On the other other hand, I think enough people saw through the trick that HP lost even more goodwill with the deal than if they simply didn't offer it at all. I think it should be studied in business schools for decades. (It deserved its own article here, but hey, I can't devote too many articles to the HP webOS, right?)

Next, I decided to look around and see if I could buy a Touchpad cheaper than the retail prices of $499 and $599 that it launched at just 28 days ago. After a couple of weeks, Amazon offered a $489 and $579 prices, a small savings. Today, I've noticed that you can save $50 on each on Amazon putting them at $449 and $549. I could stack that $50 from the deal above (because I still have my Palm Pre) and get those prices for $449 and $499. It's pretty nice to save $100 in less than a month on a product.

However, I've recently been looking on Ebay for HP Touchpads and I've seen new 16GB go for as low as $380 and 32GB go for as low as $415 - both listed as brand new. Those are bare bottom prices (as of the last few days), but I think with a little patience you may be able to get close to those percentage - maybe pay 5% more to get it quicker if necessary.

At $380, the HP Touchpad is getting pretty tempting for me. As with most larger purchases, I'm going to let this sit and stew a bit, maybe revisit next month. Perhaps a back-to-school special or the cheaper prices on Amazon will cause a trickle effect on Ebay.

What do you think? Do you have a tablet? Do you use it? Let me know in the comments.

Last updated on July 31, 2011.

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36 Responses to “HP Touchpad: A Practical, Smart Buy?”

  1. SF Boater says:

    “The first and best victory is to conquer self.” — Plato

    “We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.”
    — Aristotle

  2. Doug says:

    You’re kidding, right? I love WebOS, but with a tablet, it’s all about the apps. iPad (iOS) will always be first, Android second, Windows Phone 7 third, and WebOS struggling to be 4th. You own the Pre and know what I’m talking about. If you hate Apple, buy the Samsung pad, but don’t hitch your wagon to an OS that won’t be supported by developers.

    • Lazy Man says:

      Doug, I think apps will die in the coming years. That’s not to say that they will disappear completely, but functionality will move into the browser just as it has the desktop. Apple, themselves, has put their belief in this by refusing to allow Flash on iOS and instead saying that HTML5 will save the day. With most things running a browser, I don’t see applications going anywhere.

      Last year, I challenged for fellow software engineers in Silicon Valley who doubted me on this point. We went through all the apps that they had on their phone and I think only one that couldn’t be duplicated in browser was Shazam. There may have been a second application – I think a banking one from Chase which looked pretty cool (it took advantage of the camera). Even games, which is something I don’t care much about as long as there is a Bejeweled can be done in a browser.

      In the opening paragraph, I think I explained why the Pre sales weren’t that good. It’s different with HP. HP can compete with Apple and Google in marketing. I don’t see Windows Phone going anywhere. They started two years after webOS and I couldn’t even tell you if they have a phone on a major carrier in the US (and I spend far too much time reading about the market every day). I presume they do as I’ve seen commercials for a Windows 7 Phone.

      If I didn’t go Touchpad, I would probably go for the Samsung one. I’ve been using Android for the last two weeks on my phone (see: Virgin Mobile: Last Chance for $25 Unlimited Data, Text, and 300 Voice Minutes), thus far is yet to excite me. I think I’m going to upgrade to a higher-end Motorola Triumph as soon as I buy one in a store (Best Buy was out and I don’t know anyone else who carries it). I went to Best Buy and used a Honeycomb Android. It looked like it could be a good second place if it steals webOS UI as Microsoft and RIM have done.

      Apple has a tough go of it for me. They’ve made some decisions with their application store that I don’t appreciate. That includes banning apps for questionable reasons, trying to trademark App Store (and actually fighting the point instead of admitting their mistake), and trying to take a cut of 30% of all in-app purchases. In addition I think the lack of true multitasking in comparison to webOS really makes it a non-starter as a true blogging platform. I need the ability to cut back and forth from the WordPress application to the browser quickly and easily. It screams webOS.

      (Oh and I realize that it’s a little hypocritical to say that apps are going away and that I like the WordPress app in the same comment. WordPress via the browser is fantastic too. It’s what I have my screen on my laptop as I type this.)

      Doug, the iPad accessory doesn’t look like it inductive charging like the Touchstone. It also doesn’t look like the kind of thing what would work as a digital picture frame on your desk. At the very least the attached keyboard would make it look like a very ugly digital picture frame.

  3. Doug says:

    Also, no way is the iPad a toy. Come on — that’s just anti-Apple claptrap. And your mind changed when you saw the Touchpad w/keyboard? Seen this?

    http://store.apple.com/us/product/MC533LL/B

    The longer you hold out, the more you miss out on a revolution in computing.

  4. Milan says:

    In my mind, it still seems like a netbook would provide more useful functionality as a business productivity tool given that Windows is the real dominant player in the application space. I have lately been considering getting a touchpad, almost definitely an apple ipad because I have an iphone and like it, but I see it is mostly a toy/entertainment device and less of a business tool.

    • Lazy Man says:

      I have a netbook, and it’s is pretty great. However, the full Window’s OS (even XP which I’ve optimized and only downloaded 3 or 4 apps on) is pretty slow. The keyboard is tiny as well. That’s not to say that a tablet’s keyboard is better, it isn’t, but for the blogging set-up I showed in the article, I would need to bring a netbook and another keyboard, which would look a little weird.

      The other thing is that a tablet is optimized for the touch screen. On my netbook the touchpad is really small and it takes awhile to do anything that typically requires the pointer. In Windows, that’s a lot.

      I’m betting my wife would prefer the tablet form factor for the coffee table to look up IMDB movie trivia over a netbook :-).

      I think it’s possibly just different philosophies.

  5. Jon says:

    I bought my wife a Viewsonic G-Tablet. If you take the minimal effort to remove the stock OS for a custom one, it is a great piece of equipment for a great price. http://www.amazon.com/ViewSonic-gTablet-Multi-Touch-Screen-Android/dp/B004EPV7TK

    • Lazy Man says:

      What custom OS are you putting on it? Can you put Honeycomb on it?

      If there was a way to get webOS on it I’d probably rush to pick it up, but I know that won’t happen.

  6. Jon says:

    Pretty sure you can put Honeycomb on it. I’ll check about webOS. I put vegan-tab on mine.

    http://androidforums.com/viewsonic-gtablet/261580-will-g-tab-run-honeycomb.html

    • Lazy Man says:

      Thanks for looking it up. My thinking is that by the time you can put the latest operating system you want on it, the prices of the unmodified version will already have dropped, since the new hardware is coming out almost quite literally every month.

      For instance here was a deal for an Acer Iconia Android tablet for $298 – http://news.cnet.com/8301-13845_3-20081008-58/get-an-acer-iconia-10-inch-android-tablet-for-$299.98/?tag=mncol;txt.

      Since I wrote the article (Friday), the prices on the HP Touchpad dropped even more. It looks like they are clearing them out for a new version.

      In other news, I did buy a Motorola Triumph (Android) on Virgin Mobile yesterday. When I get back from vacation, I’m going to give that a spin. It’s supposed to be a lot better than the LG Optimus V I have. I realize they are all 2nd and 3rd rate Androids, but I’ll take that on a $25 Virgin Mobile plan.

    • Lazy Man says:

      Jon,

      If that thread is any indication of WebOS on an Android device, it’s not coming for years…. it doesn’t look like there’s even a project set up for it. However, I thought it was more notable how most everyone in the thread complimented webOS for being strikingly beautiful and surpassing Android in some ways.

      It’s these advances that I want to ensure live on as the technology evolves.

  7. Tiffany says:

    I keep trying to justify buying an iPad but as you mention it would be more of a toy instead used for my business. I don’t know much about the HP Touchpad but I think it would fall into the same category as the iPad and would be used more like a toy/entertainment than as a work product. I’ll just keep telling myself all I need is my laptop for now :)

  8. Jon says:

    If you really like WebOS and you’re going to be using the tab for productivity, it definitely isn’t worth making a sacrifice to save a few bucks. I only got the G-tab because my wife wanted a tablet (mostly for fun) and I knew it would be fun and easy to root and switch ROMs if I so desired. Also, I saw the Sox beat the White Sox yesterday!

    • Lazy Man says:

      It would be fun to have a device to root and play around with. I could just see that being yet another unfinished project.

      Unfortunately it looks like the Red Sox have lost Buchholz for the season. It’s a sad day. However, I guess with a bazillion dollar payroll, they can still contend despite the blow.

  9. Jon says:

    Bedard could end up being a steal if he stays healthy. I know, not likely. Miller looked good yesterday. I think he was hitting 95 on the gun and he didn’t walk 12 guys like he usually does.

  10. What’s with the Sox balking on Harden’s medicals? Did Theo somehow not realize that Harden is a fragile little buttercup?

    (Great pitcher when healthy, though.)

  11. Jon says:

    Sorry to turn this into a NE sports thread, but the Pats should sign Braylon Edwards to an incentive laden deal.

    • Lazy Man says:

      I’m okay with a NE Sports thread on posts like this. It isn’t one of my core personal finance posts. Plus, I continued it earlier.

      I like Bedard. He seems like a quality arm. I have always been a fan of Harden, but as everyone knows, he’s never been healthy. I think the Red Sox went through thinking he was going to be healthy for the rest of this season. That would have been enough to move Lars Anderson who the Sox have no place for with A-Gon. However, I think the physical came back with a couple of issues and it wasn’t worth moving him. It must have been really bad because Harden only had 500K on his contract.

      I like the Patriots’ receivers with Ochocinco. I want to see Edelman get his chance and he’s looking like he’s 4-5th on the chart (depending on whether you think Tate is ahead of him). I think I saw that Nate Clements is available after being cut, and I’d like to see him in dime coverage if he comes cheaply for a championship. I don’t think the Patriots need anything in the secondary, but he’s probably an upgrade over Butler/Wilhite.

      • Lazy Man says:

        Oh and I don’t think Braylon Edwards would take an incentive laden deal to be the Patriots. It doesn’t make sense for any receiver to do such a thing. The ball will get spread around. I guess if the incentive is being put on the field that would work. I wouldn’t expect much in the ways of catches or something like that.

  12. I was pontificating via quotes about the concept of faking ones self out in order to get work done. :)

  13. Jon says:

    The only reason I mention Braylon is his apparent enthusiasm for all things Michigan. Putting him with Brady might unlock some sort of nostalgia and ideally translate into some form of on the field synergy. Probably overly wistful, but who knows. The best thing about the Bedard deal was the fact that the Sox only gave up B/C talent that they would have probably lost anyway by not putting them on the 40 man roster. A healthy Bedard is a solid number 2 if he’s right. Finally, used properly, Haynesworth should be a beast.

  14. A story I read indicate that BOS was still willing to give up Lars, but wanted to pull the PTBNL out of the deal … suggesting that maybe the physical issue with Harden wasn’t huge? Then again, I’m not sure how big of a prospects the PTBNL was, either (I was too busy following/analyzing the Ubaldo deal to follow many other deals).

  15. […] Drops in Price – I think it's just my luck that I write about the HP TouchPad and the very next day Precentral has an article on how to save even more money on a Touchpad. […]

  16. Sue says:

    I am looking at the ipad vs hp tablet for classroom use for students. The main idea is the apps to enhance content taught as well as utilizing it for students with special needs. The perk for some in the district is the printing capability– I am curious your opinion. If the apps are the big draw, would you suggest the hp or ipad?

    • Lazy Man says:

      Sue, have you analyzed the specific apps that you want for teaching? Are those apps on the HP Touchpad?

      If apps are the big draw, it’s pretty clear you should go with the iPad – they have something like 195,000 more apps.

  17. […] the HP Touchpad as Blogging Machine first – Interestingly about a week after I wrote that the HP Touchpad Would be a Great Blogging Machine, ZDNet's Mobile News guy James Kendrick reviews the HP Touchpad as a portable blogging machine. He […]

  18. I have done a lot of research on this and it has come down to the ipad vs. hp touchpad. And in my opinion hp knocks out an ipad in one punch. HP touchpad is the best of the best right now.

  19. […] think I've put my next out there with a couple of articles on the HP TouchPad: HP Touchpad: A Practical, Smart Buy? and Samsung Chromebook: webOS Clone in a […]

  20. roy says:

    so the 32 gb is actually only 149.99 on amazon right now. i dont know what happened but they are going for dirt cheap i picked up 2 of them for my girl an myself too good of a deal to pass up

  21. […] priced at $499. [Editor's note: even at that price I found some good reasons to ask if the HP Touchpad was a smart buy]. However, HP's recent decision to discontinue webOS, the TouchPad is now available for a mere $99 […]

  22. […] priced at $499. [Editor's note: even at that price I found some good reasons to ask if the HP Touchpad was a smart buy]. However, HP's recent decision to discontinue webOS, the TouchPad is now available for a mere $99 […]

  23. […] realize you are probably little bored about articles on the HP TouchPad. If that's the case, I've got some good news. I think I'm down to only two final ideas for TouchPad […]

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