Launching a new tablet these days must keep executives up at night.
Bugs creep onto the device unannounced, the press has a field day comparing slight variances in thickness and battery life, and everyone complains about the sordid state of app availability.
But guess what? The HP TouchPad actually has a few good options. There are 300 launch apps designed for the 9.7-inch screen. Here are the 10 best apps for the TouchPad.
1. Citrix Receiver
By far the most impressive app on the TouchPad, Citrix Receiver could propel the fledgling tablet into the corporate realms. (Keep in mind that HP is the largest tech company in the world - they can make things happen.) In practice, a demo version worked smoothly for viewing PowerPoint slides and running a 3D animation.
With the noticeable lack of any built-in book reader, the TouchPad desperately needs the Amazon Kindle app. (It is included on a new device as a beta but will be updated shortly after launch.) We usually place the Kindle app high on our lists because the ecosystem is so sound: buy a book on any phone or reader and you can then access it with the app, in seconds. Book selection is astounding good.
3. Need for Speed Hot Pursuit
One of the major issues with the TouchPad is slow application load times. Yet, once the apps load, they generally run fast. Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is the best game on the platform so far, zooming along without the stuttering you might see on an Android tablet when several European sports cars fill the screens. Plus, like the BlackBerry PlayBook, the game runs even when you minimize it.
One clear differentiator on the TouchPad is that it has a first-party Facebook app. You can drag panels left and right, view your own feed, and post updates. The Facebook app is well-integrated: when you view photos on the device after you have added a Facebook account, it's a little disconcerting to see all of your photos piled up in one album - mostly because other tablet are not that integrated.
5. Audubon Birds
As you're browsing through available apps like Hangman Haunting! and the Menstruation and Ovulation Calendar app (yes, it exists), keep an eye out for Audubon Birds. Yes, it's an iPad port and costs US$14.99. The interface for finding birds works well - you can search in specific regions and by size/colour.
This location-search app works like Yelp and countless others, but this version is designed for TouchPad with panels you can drag to re-size and an interface that matches the look and feel of the tablet. The Wi-Fi version of the TouchPad has no GPS chip, so the app triangulates based on your Wi-Fi location, which is not as accurate. Yet, there's plenty of detailed info (mostly retail shops).
This music discovery app analyses the songs on your TouchPad and then suggests similar songs. For example, if Appleseed Cast is angry and smooth, you will see similar artists like Sunny Day Real Estate. You can get information on the newly found artists, play snippets, and find related artists.
8. Angry Birds
Could the TouchPad survive without Angry Birds? Not really. This version runs about the same in HD as the same app on Android 3.1 tablets, with snappy performance on the TouchPad's 1.2GHz processor. The TouchPad has a good speaker and plays crisp audio, so the cartoonish audio makes the game fun.
9. USA Today
The USA Today app shows how a free newsreader should work. You can quickly scan through stories from the day and view photos. The colour-coding helps you identify entertainment stories, sports, and major news headlines.
A new interface in Weatherbug tries to reduce the clutter but make weather info easier to find. You can view a quick summary of the current and forecasted weather for your area, then study detailed maps showing weather movements.
Note: For those wondering why Armageddon Squadron, the app shown at the HP TouchPad press briefing, is missing: it was not available yet on the device.