I wish I had never purchased my HP Touchpad - however not for the reasons you may think. Before experiencing WebOS (the Touchpad operating system), my head was filled with mediocre mobile OS's that performed tasks well enough, iterate like clockwork, and in general completed tasks in a way most people can use. I was very happy with my Windows Phone 7, I thought IOS was minimal but efficient, and that Android was a slow, bulky but destructive tank.
WebOS contains many features that make using computer instinctive and enjoyable. Ever since discovering (and ditching) the Opera web browser, I had found a simple feature that made SO MUCH SENSE - mouse gestures. The idea that you can wave your mouse in a small shape and the browser knows that you want to open a link in a new tab, to close the current tab or change tabs without having to lug the mouse all over the screen every time - this is a very efficient system. I loved it so much I found extensions to replicate this in Chrome (the world leader in web browsers).
Task switching in WebOS follows a similar natural user interface that gestures in Opera started - swipe from the bottom of the screen to view all the open 'cards', you can then swipe between the cards, kill them, open them or even organise them in a very easy and visual way. Applications can open many cards and they can be manipulated individually (a good example of that is the web browser). Multi-tasking works as expected, applications can be paused or run in the background quite happily. This user interface works so well that it has been copied in many operating systems since (Windows Phone 7, Blackberry 10, and Android).
Now, comparing just these simple features of the operating system to the current market leaders (I will add Windows Phone 7 as a majority even though it isn't), we can see different (and mainly rubbish) implementations.
- Instinctive gestures that do not require multiple fingers
- Multi-tasking that just works
- Cards and task switching
Now these features aren't huge or even complicated concepts, then why is it that no one else can implement these features in a similar or better way?
Windows 8 has some interesting concepts for task switching, window snapping and much more - but no other operating system seems to care about this. The core experience in any operating system is handling your tasks, and being naïve to say that 'the customer shouldn't worry about these things' is just stupid. Android is the only mobile operating system that has the ability to switch between applications easily - and that's only because a member of the WebOS team joined Google and implemented this feature (although in my opinion the default task switcher still sucks). Windows Phone 7 has attempted to perform the WebOS style switching, but fails by a long shot.
So why do I wish I never bought my Touchpad? Because it breaks my heart to know the best operating system is being ditched, that I can't buy a new phone running it, and that I will have to use an inferior OS.
So what will I choose when my current contract runs out? Well, either Android or Windows Phone 8 (once some details are released).