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HP To Showcase webOS Apps in Digital Magazine
By Barry Levine
Posted: June 24, 2011 10:23am PDT

A new way to find webOS mobile apps for Hewlett-Packard's upcoming TouchPad is a digital magazine called webOS Pivot. The electronic magazine will feature articles about apps and link to them in the webOS App Catalog. HP sees Pivot as a way to help developers market webOS apps. HP is also offering discounts to longtime developers.

Instead of simply allowing users to search and wander through an app store for its soon-to-be-released TouchPad tablet and other webOS devices, Hewlett-Packard is launching a digital magazine with reviews and other information about the apps as an alternative entry point. The monthly magazine, called webOS Pivot, was announced by the company on Thursday, and it's intended to complement the webOS App Catalog.

The App Catalog is HP's store, but it has been lagging compared to the app stores for Android and Apple devices. Currently, there are only about 10,000 apps in the webOS App Catalog.

'Growing Platform of Opportunity'

A user can enter the App Catalog directly, or find expert opinions, editorials, columns, feature stories, and images about the apps in the Pivot electronic magazine first, and then be directed to that app in the App Catalog.

The content will be oriented to a given region, and the magazine, which will automatically be updated wirelessly each month, will be available in English, French, German and Spanish. There will also be articles about developers who create webOS applications.

Richard Kerris, HP vice president for webOS developer relations, said the company wants application developers "to experience webOS as the growing platform of opportunity, and we're investing in new ways to help market their applications on our platform."

But Pivot is only one of the steps HP is undertaking to encourage application development for the TouchPad, which goes on sale July 1. Other steps include a new discount structure based on the amount of time a developer has been in the webOS or Palm developer program, and the number of active applications from that developer in the App Catalog.

'Very Creative Solution'

Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with industry research firm Forrester, called Pivot "a very creative solution to helping users discover quality apps." She added that, as HP can't yet compete with market leader Apple in the number of apps, it is trying to compete on the basis of quality and findability.

Epps described the search experience in Apple's App Store as "horrible." For instance, she said, you can only find an app having to do with "fitness" if that word is in the title. But, she noted, Fitness magazine's digital products won't be found if you search for "exercise."

Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for consumer technology at NPD Group, pointed out that, for the Apple and Android app stores, there are even several app-discovery applications, although he noted that this leads to practical -- not to mention philosophical -- questions about how to find an app-finding app.

On the big question of whether Pivot is likely to make a significant difference in TouchPad's sales, especially if other tablet makers pick up the magazine idea, Rubin noted that Pivot won't be HP's only way to differentiate its webOS line.

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