HP will release its TouchPad tablet next week, and the Palm WebOS-running device will have its own quasi-official Facebook app, according to TechCrunch. Unlike the Facebook for iPhone and Android apps which Facebook develops internally, the app is being developed by HP’s team, and it will be the second device-maker produced Facebook app following the May release of RIM’s Facebook for BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.
The TouchPad app appears to include a Flipboard-style news feed view as well as support for Places and Events. The inclusion of the Facebook app amongst the small list of around 300 TouchPad apps that will be available at the device’s launch may be important HP. The company will need all the selling points it can get as it looks to compete with Apple’s iPad, which currently controls 70% of the tablet market and will soon feature an official Facebook app.
HP’s existing smartphone app Facebook for Palm webOS hasn’t been updated since December and is slowly losing users, dipping from 516,000 to 483,000 daily active users this month. This isn’t a good sign for the HPs devices or its mobile platform. The iPhone and Android apps continue to climb quickly, and even the BlackBerry smartphones and Windows phones Facebook apps are gaining users. If the TouchPad can achieve strong sales though, it could attract more developers to the ailing mobile webOS.
The leaked shots of the Facebook for TouchPad app show a multi-pane interface allowing users to quickly jump between apps without returning to the home screen. The app appears to include the ability to view Events and checkin via Facebook Places– two features lacking from RIM’s Facebook for Blackberry PlayBook. The Places functionality positions the TouchPad’s app as more of a mobile experience, while the PlayBook’s app seems more like a couch-dweller’s alternative to the website.
What may be most innovative about the TouchPad app is its tile view of the news feed. Similar to on the Flipboard iPad app and the now defunct-PostPost website, news feed stories are displayed in tiles of differing sizes and shapes to create a visually appealing mix of text, links, and photos. This approximates the feel of reading a social magazine, and may not cause the fatigue produced by a uniform stream of updates.
If HP can show off a Facebook TouchPad app with eye catching new interfaces and support for core features, it could help convince consumers that the tablet will have high quality apps, even if it has less than the 400,000 available on iTunes or the 300,000 in the Android Market.