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WebOS Pivot aims to boost HP apps pizzazz

Light on apps for its WebOS-based Touchpad coming out next week, HP wants to provide a highly curated way to discover WebOS apps and show developers that customers can find their apps.

HP today announced WebOS Pivot, which is essentially a monthly magazine published with its App Catalog that highlights featured applications, interesting developers, and popular apps. Hewlett-Packard

When Hewlett-Packard's WebOS tablet debuts next week it won't have nearly the number of apps as its competitors. But the company thinks it can use that to its advantage. That's where WebOS Pivot comes in.

HP introduced the feature of its HP App Catalog today for the first time. Pivot is essentially a magazine, published every month, with its app store. It will highlight featured applications, interesting developers, and popular apps.

Pivot will have articles and photos from "journalists and photographers affiliated with leading publications," and guest columns from "notable" writers, according to the company's release. All of the content will be about, you guessed it, apps. The content will be tailored by geographic region where HP devices are available and published in English, French, German, and Spanish.

Several questions probably pop to mind. Like, what does HP know about content publishing? But even more importantly, why go through all the trouble with a monthly publication for apps?

The answer to the latter is that this is HP attempting to appeal to developers. HP knows it's at the back of the pack when it comes to developers' priorities.

A survey of more than 2,700 developers by IDC and Appcelerator in April showed that interest in developing for WebOS--for both the Touchpad and WebOS phones--is lagging far behind iOS and Android. But it's also behind Windows Phone 7, BlackBerry phones and the PlayBook.

A mere 17 percent of those surveyed described themselves as "very interested" in making apps for a WebOS tablet. That's compared to 86 percent "very interested" in making iPad apps, and 71 percent interested in making Android tablet apps.

Apps on the HP TouchPad
Apps on the HP TouchPad James Martin/CNET

And that likely has little to do with whether or not the software is good. Developers go to where the audience is, which means the devices people are buying. And so far, HP does not have any buyers of its tablet. We don't know how many Touchpad-optimized apps will be in the HP App Catalog when the tablet debuts in about a week. But it's safe to assume it won't be a lot.

Earlier this year, HP Vice President of Developer Relations Richard Kerris acknowledged that HP will not be able to compete with other mobile OSes on volume of apps.

"It's a long road ahead. I don't think it's practical we're going to come out of the gate and have tons and tons of applications," Kerris said in an interview with CNETin March.

At that time he also insisted HP would try a different tack than trying to keep up with iOS and Android in terms of sheer number of apps.

"The numbers game is not one we care to play. People don't use more than a couple dozen at most. So we want the ones we do have to be really functional."

That idea seems consistent with what HP is announcing with Pivot today.

Pivot is HP's way of telling WebOS developers that if they make a good app, Touchpad owners will find it. But it's also a way to fight what HP sees as the disadvantage of iPad, iPhone, and Android device owners: that there are so many apps the good ones are actually hard to find.

This story was updated at 1:36 p.m. to reflect that Pivot will be a monthly publication, not weekly.