Touchpads at fire sale prices and autism

Less than a week after the much anticipated TouchPad arrived in our lives, HP announced it was getting out of the tablet wars in a hurry. That part of me that is given to dry and dark humour made me think I must have killed the TouchPad. After all, I thought both Beta and HDDVD made more sense than the video formats that became popular.

When I stopped chuckling, texting and tweeting about killing the TouchPad, I realized that the hard part was about to begin. I have a tablet that no one will write any more apps for and I really wanted to have a TouchPad because I really liked my touchscreen notebook from HP. That would be the one that my twins love to draw on. The same one that survived a sudden stop on a concrete train platform and the kids still liked to draw on despite the huge crack in the screen.

Earlier this year, I tweeted a random musing that it would be interesting to test a Playbook, iPad and TouchPad with my autistic son. An Apple fan, BlackFish,  wrote back to say it wasn’t about the devices, it was all about the apps.

It is all about the apps, no question. In that category, Apple wins hands down. The variety and number of apps that can be used by kids on the spectrum not just for the iPad, but also for the iPhone and iPod shows just how important tablets have become for asd families.

People like Shannon Rosa among others have demonstrated how valuable the iPad is for our special kids.

My original musing about testing tablets had a glaring omission. I often forget about tablets powered by Android, but a lot of apps have been developed for special needs for that system. Instead of thinking about comparing a Playbook, I really should have thought about an Android tablet, but I keep forgetting about them.

Any developer who wants to make money and do things that are going to have the biggest bang is going to write code for either a machine running iOS or Android.

Where does that leave those million and a bit folks who ran out to buy the TouchPad at $99 or $149? It’s not about the apps for those folks. At the fire sale prices, quite a few people realized they might be able to get one of those magical tablety thingees without knowing it’s all about the apps. Did they make a mistake because not all tablets are equal?

Yes and no and yes, I really do see both sides of most issues.

Yes, they made a mistake because a tablet is a little like a water meter. You need one to get water into the house, but it has to be connected to water. That’s my mutilated metaphor to suggesting that tablets are like utilities. If there’s no source they are not much good.

On the other hand, no,  folks didn’t necessarily make a mistake because a recent look at the webOS app catalog shows that apps are still being developed. There was certainly a lot of talk before HP pulled the plug on tablets that developers loved webOS and afterwards many were a little ticked that the plug was pulled so unceremoniously.

The price cut actually may have helped encourage some development. The number of  Touchpads sold at those low prices did what the HP marketing couldn’t do: it moved large numbers of tablets in a short period of time. It almost looked like the stampedes accompanying a new Apple launch.

Just by the numbers, HP produced what was the 2nd bestselling tablet for a time and provided evidence that people wanted a tablet that cost lest that an iPad.

So, the morning after discount TouchPads were unwrapped, people started wondering how to use them to help their kids and were disappointed. A google search of apps shows very few that are relevant. Trolling around the app catalog doesn’t reveal many more. Nonetheless there at a few things that be can be done regardless of an abundance of apps if we think about the TouchPad  in the following ways:

  • The TouchPad makes for a great reward for task completion
  • They can assist with normally difficult transistions or tasks
  • Excellent for turn-taking
  • Great when redirection is needed
  • Can be used to reinforce ’cause and affect play’
Those are some broad categories, but these are important issues for our kids.
We can use some of the bundled apps like JUST TYPE if your son is like mine and loves producing words. We use JustDraw, a free app, when he wants to draw letters with his special skills. We can also use the internet where there are some great sites.In my next post, I will be writing about some of the apps that do have benefits for our kids.
In the meantime, check out hackingautism.org to see what happens when developers are given some great ideas during  a hackathon to develop apps for asd kids. Many developers and tech bloggers have written that webOS is a great operating system. It’s important to stay tuned to see how many TouchPad apps may come of this.
It is also important to realize that webOS has developed some tools to help translate existing iOS apps fairly quickly. It is just going taking us longer to get some of those asd-relevant apps for our bargain-basement tablets.
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12 thoughts on “Touchpads at fire sale prices and autism

  1. Great blog Jim! I hope many parents with Autistic children take advantage of the tablet sales, I think parents will see the value of some great apps for asd children.

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    • Thank you, Kate. I know many parents are seeing great progress after their kids start using tablets. Access to the tablets and apps can be such an important pillar of support for asd kids and their families.

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  2. Hey Jim, there’s one thing that dawned on me after some reading I did last night. One of the downfalls of apps is that you can’t modify them easily. I’ve heard so many times the refrain ‘oh I wish it did X’ – I wonder if some clever folks (i.e. not me, lol) can use webOS as a way to help people custom design their own apps? Wouldn’t that be cool?

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    • That would be cool and amazing. I think there is a lot about the progress of computers over the years that has been good for democratizing knowledge while hampering the ability to tinker. It is easier to gain access to large volumes of information, but we become less and less able to control the machine through which that information flows. Once upon a time a reason for choosing Windows machines over Apple was the ability to change innards, but that model isn’t what propels tablet sales or even laptop sales. They are closed units, including their operating systems, and we have little ability to customize the machines other than selecting apps. If the systems and machines are popular, we get a greater variety of apps.

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  3. Hi,
    I am in a similar position and need help. Because of this fire sale of HP Touchpad, I was gifted a HP Touchpad. My son is autistic and non-verbal (14 years old). Do you all know of any applications that run on HP Touchpad please. I see most applications on iPhone/iPad. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

    I am looking for a text/symbols to speech application to start with.

    Thanks in advance for the help

    Regards
    Sumantra
    sumantra_sarkar@yahoo.com

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  4. Hi momgonerogue. Thanks for following and thanks for your comment. At this point it is getting harder and harder to find a TouchPad. There are still some available and the apps that are geared specifically to autism just didn’t arrive. HP has announced that webOS will still be supported and it will be open source. Both of those things are good news for the future, but as far as apps go the iPad/iPod/iPhone sets and Android machines offer a lot. While the Apple devices are very popular and there are many apps available, there is a greater variety of machines running Android so the cost of those tablets are usually lower than the iPad 2. If you already owned a TouchPad, I would suggest looking at the Oceanhouse Media apps http://www.oceanhousemedia.com/products/. I have downloaded some and they are great. I have also seen many more of their apps on an iPad. There is no difference in performance on either system that I can tell.

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  5. Pingback: Web and Smartphone Apps for Special Needs | disabilitydirectory.net.au

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