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Palm chief addresses poor TouchPad reviews, compares webOS to Apple's early Mac OS X

Former Palm CEO and current HP executive Jon Rubenstein sent a letter to employees addressing lukewarm reviews of its new TouchPad tablet, and suggested that criticism of its webOS operating system is similar to complaints reviewers had with early versions of Mac OS X.

The letter from Rubinstein, who is senior vice president and general manager of HP's Palm Global Business Unit, came in response to reviews that characterized the newly launched TouchPad as a "mediocre tablet." Reviewers were impressed with the look of the TouchPad, but took issue with the device's weight, bugs, and lack of applications.

Rubinstein's letter, shared by (via Daring Fireball), stresses the positive and states that the industry "understand's HP's vision," seeing the "same potential in webOS." He also said that issues highlighted by reviewers are already known at HP, and will be addressed quickly with over-the-air updates.

"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," Rubinstein wrote.

He then shared a trio of quotes from reviews from a different piece of software that launched more than 10 years ago: Apple's own Mac OS X operating system. Those early reviews characterized the software as "sluggish," without any "quality apps," and "just not making sense."

"It's hard to believe those statements described Mac OS X — a platform that would go on to change the landscape of Silicon Valley in ways that no one could have imagined," he said.

In closing, Rubinstein, highlighted what he sees as the "potential for greatness" in webOS. He believes that users of the TouchPad understand that potential as well, and with HP's commitment to webOS, the potential will become a reality.

Last year, HP bought Palm for $1.2 billion. The acquisition brought HP into the smartphone industry, where the Palm Pre and other devices aim to compete with Apple's iPhone.

Prior to joining Palm, Rubinstein played an important role at Apple as the head of the company's iPod division. Rubinstein was instrumental in the creation of the iPod and discovered the portable hard drives that were used in the first models.

Rubinstein's entire e-mail, sent out internally at HP to the company's staff last week, is included below:


Today we bring the HP TouchPad and webOS 3.0 to the world. The HP team has achieved something extraordinary – especially when you consider that it’s been just one year since our work on the TouchPad began in earnest. Today also marks the start of a new era for HP as our vision for connected mobility begins to take form - an ecosystem of services, applications and devices connected seamlessly by webOS.

If you’ve seen the recent TouchPad reviews you know that the industry understands HP’s vision and sees the same potential in webOS as we do. David Pogue from the New York Times says “there are signs of greatness here.” (I’ve included links to David’s review and others below.) You’ve also seen that reviewers rightly note things we need to improve about the webOS experience. 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. We still have work to do to make webOS the platform we know it can be, but remember…’s a marathon, not a sprint.

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"

"'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.

The similarities to our situation are obvious, but there’s also a big difference. Like David Pogue, our audiences get that webOS has the potential for greatness. And like me, they know that your hard work and passion, and the power of HP’s commitment to webOS, will turn that potential into the real thing.