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WebOS chief: Don't fret over TouchPad reviews

An internal e-mail from HP Senior VP Jon Rubinstein shows him cheering up his staff by comparing complaints about WebOS and the company's new TouchPad to the first reviews of Apple's Mac OS X.

Josh Miller

Hewlett-Packard Senior Vice President Jon Rubinstein attempted to cheer up his staff following some less-than-stellar TouchPad reviews by comparing them to initial complaints about Apple's desktop operating system, according to memo published today by PreCentral.

Rubinstein runs the Palm business unit, which produced the WebOS-based HP TouchPad that went on sale for the first time last week. Reviews were generally mixed--some complained that WebOS is too slow and that it doesn't have enough apps. CNET's own take on it is that it "would have made a great competitor for the original iPad, but its design, features, and speed put it behind today's crop of tablet heavyweights."

In the internal e-mail to staff, Rubinstein tells his staff that most of the reviews show that the tech industry "understands HP's vision" and "sees potential" in WebOS. But he agrees that some of the complaints are valid and HP is already working on them.

"The good news is that most of the issues they cite are already known to us and will be addressed in short order by over-the-air software and app catalog updates," he wrote. "We still have work to do to make WebOS the platform we know it can be, but remember...it's a marathon, not a sprint."

Then he invokes a comparison to another previously maligned-in-the-press product when it was first launched: Mac OS X.

In that spirit, Richard Kerris, head of worldwide developer relations for webOS, reminded me yesterday of the first reviews for a product introduced a little over ten years ago:

"...overall the software is sluggish"

"...there are no quality apps to use, so it won't last"

"...it's just not making sense...."

It's hard to believe these statements described MacOS X--a platform that would go on to change the landscape of Silicon Valley in ways that no one could have imagined.

It's a lofty comparison for sure, but Rubinstein and Kerris are both former employees of Apple, so it's one they can make with some firsthand experience and insight. But it's probably not the most realistic comparison.

Clearly they are trying to provide some consolation and validation for the project the staff has spent the last year on. It's true that both WebOS and Mac OS X faced difficult, uphill battles once introduced.

But to get where it is today with Mac OS X, Apple had years to improve its operating system, which was the basis for the company's most important product at the time. HP's first foray into consumer tablets is starting out of the gate with a field full of competitors already, including two extremely formidable ones in Google, and of course, Apple. And the tablet and mobile device market is moving at a whirlwind pace today.

Will WebOS, and specifically the TouchPad, have the luxury of time to catch up?