I’d like to take a moment to introduce to you the project that has been taking up a considerable amount of my time and attention lately. Here it is:
This, my dear friends and readers, is the HP TouchPad, a cornerstone of HP’s new line of WebOS products. Since HP’s acquisition of Palm last summer, I have been working on the internals of WebOS, the operating system which has powered Palm’s current line of devices, and I’ve also been hard at work bringing new features to help make the transition from smart phones to a tablet a pleasant one for both developers and users. Officially, I’ve been working on the windowing system (known as “cards” and “card stacks”), but the reach of my efforts has extended into the native applications and gaming. I’ve also been a journeyman bug fixer during my transition into the Palm organization, before finally settling into feature sets I can call my own.
I’m very, very excited about the release of the TouchPad. I have to admit that I don’t really think people have seen the potential of WebOS until now. Phones are just not the ideal place to demonstrate the features of a fully multitasking operating system. The limited amount of screen space and limited amount of attention span devoted to one’s phone just don’t add up to the kind of rich, long-lived interactions which benefit the WebOS model of concurrently running applications. I do, however, think that this model can seriously up the game in the tablets market, which is currently dominated only by iOS and which will only become a truly competitive market this year as the TouchPad enters the fray with both iPad and Android products.
The TouchPad was announced today, along with the HP Pre3 and HP Veer (both of which I have also been an active contributor to), at a major demo in San Francisco. I really think the demo went quite well, with only a small hiccup. It looks like the hands-on demos afterward likewise went well. I haven’t been able to find video from the formal on-stage demos yet, but here are some great videos of our official features and a hands-on:
Of course, this tablet is “my kid,” so I’m going to have opinions about how great I think it is. Either way, though, this is a very big day for me personally. You see, I’ve always had a dream, ever since the age of five when I first put my hands on a keyboard, that I would one day “make the computers go.” I always dreamed not of being an applications developer but of a designer of the machines which people would use. I used to lay awake on summer nights in my home in central Florida, laying on top of the blankets, sweating lightly in the thick air, and think about how, one day, I’d know enough about what was going on in that multitude of silicon to the point that I would make it come to life. That dream is what sent me off to college to learn computer science, and it’s what sent me to graduate school when my undergrad years failed to teach me enough to fulfill my dream. Since leaving school, I’ve been fortunate enough to work in the mobile industry where I’ve had the chance to work on phones and netbooks, but every project of mine has had a feeling of ill fate to it. The products never gained the level of attention that made me feel like I’d put something out there in the world. Yes, I can boast that someone has probably been able to dial 911 because I did my job, but I’ve never met anyone who’s used a Motorola Q9h…and I sincerely doubt anyone outside of me and my old HP team have touched the Compaq Airlife.
So, there’s always been something a little bit anticlimactic to much of my career. Today has been something to change that narrative, though. In those demos, you actually saw my work. You don’t know that you saw it, but you did. Things in those demos worked because I took care of them. That itself is enough for me. In this moment, I feel that I’ve arrived, and I have a great deal of excitement about the potential future of this product. It’s taken several years of paying my dues, but I can finally point to something in the tech world and say that it’s me in there. Deep down inside that device, there’s a whisper from the hopeful mind of a little boy in Garfield pajamas staccato-typing in BASIC and dreaming of Silicon Valley.
Just keep that in mind if you happen to be shopping for a tablet this summer.