Using the TouchPad: webOS


I’ve been struggling with how to write this part, there are just so many areas to go into that my original post was better suited as a mini-book. So I’m going to break it down into three subjects, the operating system webOS, Creating Content, and Consuming Content.

I’ve made no secret about how much I enjoy webOS. At CES in 2009 it was a fresh concept bringing in all the information from your multiple sites and merging them together, multi-tasking like it wasn’t a thing, and looking polished. webOS is more than just an operating system, it’s an app also because of how well all the different parts work together.

webOS 3.0 is the latest incarnation of this, and as one would hope the best, for the most part. The main things that set webOS apart are Synergy, the merging of information from different sources and merging them together, and multi-tasking. Synergy sees a big boost as it is now present in Contacts (the backbone for other services), Email, Calendar, and even Photos & Video. What this means for the Contacts app is that all your contacts from your various online accounts, Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook, AIM, and LinkedIn to name a few, are all downloaded and stored in your Contacts. Then it goes one step farther and merges those contacts Synergy knows to be the same. So John, who’s in my GMail, AIM, and Facebook has a listing in my Contacts app with all his contact info, and any other info John as put in these places. After the initial merge you can go in and un-merge profiles if needed, or merge profiles Synergy missed. 
Accounts available in Synergy
Email isn’t too revolutionary in how it works. There’s an All Inbox which shows all the messages in all the in boxes in all your accounts, which may or may not be helpful. I’m undecided on that, but you can always drill down to individual account in boxes. Having only GMail accounts I can say it handles GMail wonderfully, often times alerting me I have email before GMail does. Using a 3 window pane system that allows me to see mail boxes, mail titles, and the body of an email, I can can collapse panes to see the email message larger. Also, I can easily select multiple emails to quickly get through my email. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it works great. Calendar does similar to email bringing in your calendars from your accounts and showing them all on one screen can be very useful. You can of course turn on and off calendars. Basically what were two great apps on webOS 1.x and 2.x feel better and quicker on the bigger screen.

New for webOS 3.0 is the application of Synergy to photos in the Photos & Videos app. Though not as robust as their Email/Contacts/Calendar set of apps, Synergy will pull photos from Facebook, Photobucket (people still use that?), and Snapfish (HP’s own photo printing arm). Sadly Picasa, a Google property, isn’t included in this. Nor is Flickr. I hope HP or a developer add Picasa soon. In the Photos & Video app is pulls down photos from these services and shows them along side media you have on the TouchPad. What’s neat, with Facebook photos anyway, is you can read and comment on your photos from within the app. A very slick use of Synergy. I hope HP does something similar with Music, pulling music from Google Music, Pandora, Last.fm, etc and showing them all in one place. That would be killer.

The last great thing about webOS is its multi-tasking. This is true multi-tasking and very similar to what you’re used to on a computer. Card-like windows represent apps, or app screens (apps can have multiple cards), and you press the center button to minimize all the cards and flick cards left and right to change apps, or app screens. To close an app you just flick it off the screen. The level of interaction, I believe, is unlike the othe OSes on the market, and I find myself constantly trying to do the same on other tablets. But the powerful thing about webOS multi-tasking is that these apps or web pages are fully working in the background. If I have Google Music playing in one browser card, Google Docs in another Google Music will continue to play in the background as though nothing was going on. Multi-tasking takes organization farther with Stacks, the ability to stack cards together. Currently, while writing this, I have my “Social” stack made up of the excellent Facebook tablet app, a Twitter client called Spaz, my Google Reader, and Google+. In another stack I’ve got my e-mail and calendar apps, and in a final stack I have Blogger and this document in Google docs. So instead of navigating through 8 open cards I just navigate among 3 open stacks and the cards in those stacks. webOS nails multi-tasking down like no other OS can.

All in all webOS 3.0 is a great evolution of a great OS, and the larger screen of the TouchPad really makes it shine. But there is one thing I miss from webOS 1.x and 2.x and that is the lack of gesture support. On the various Prē and Pixi model of phones there’s a gesture area that really allowed you to interact with your phone. With a tablet that can be used in different orientations I guess it was too hard to incorporate a gesture area and still keep it fairly small. Though I don’t see tablet devices gaining gestures I hope that doesn’t mean in the name of device similarity that doesn’t mean phones will lose gestures.

Next up, Consuming Content.


The TouchPad at work:



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