If you're one of the thousands who snapped up the HP TouchPad during its brief $99 liquidation sale (or one of the unfortunate hundreds that paid full price), I've got some good news and some bad news.
First, the bad news. If the tablet market were a horse race, you just bet on a steed that's been carted off to the glue factory. Abandon any expectations of software updates, or of exciting games and apps filtering their way into the WebOS store. What you see now is what you're stuck with.
The good news is that there's plenty the TouchPad can do for you, even if the device has no future. In fact, there are a few roles that a $99 tablet can fill better than an iPad. So if you're sitting there in your TouchPad liquidation hangover, wondering what to do with your new tablet, here are a few solid ideas.
Dedicated sofa computer
To me, the tablet's natural habitat is the sofa. Whether you're using the TouchPad for checking e-mail between commercials, or hitting up IMDB in the middle of a movie to figure out where you've seen that actor before, the tablet makes a natural couch companion.
Battery life is also one killer feature that makes a tablet better than a laptop when it comes to sofa surfing. With 8-10 hours from a full charge, the TouchPad can survive a week's worth of casual prime-time browsing before needing a recharge. Bonus points if you can find a way to integrate HP's TouchStone inductive charger into your coffee table.
Kid mute switch
Whether you're on a long road trip, or just trying to avoid a tantrum at the doctor's office, a tablet loaded with a few episodes of your kid's favorite TV shows is worth its weight in gold.
I'm not endorsing child neglect, here, so please spare me the accusing comments. When it's 2 a.m. and you're at the emergency room with a barfing kid, you'll feel like parent of the year when you bust out an episode of "Spongebob Squarepants" on your tablet.
You can load movies up manually, if you have existing DRM-free content to transfer from your computer. Otherwise, hit up the included video store and purchase video downloads directly.
Digital photo album
This Thanksgiving, why not show off your family photos on the TouchPad? Aside from directly transferring photos from your computer, the TouchPad's photo app integrates with everything from Photobucket, Snapfish, Facebook, and more. Plus, at $99, you can pass it around the dinner table without worrying about your clumsy uncle spilling gravy on it.
I get a kick out of people telling me how much they use their iPad for reading books. I don't care how many online book stores it works with; if you paid $500 for a glorified e-reader, you paid too much.
$99, though, is cheaper than the cheapest Amazon Kindle. Speaking of which, did you know the TouchPad comes preloaded with the Kindle app? And unlike Amazon's e-ink reader, the TouchPad's backlit screen makes it easy to read in bed without keeping your spouse awake.
Traveling with a laptop or an iPad can be nerve-racking. You can't help but worry about your precious tech getting stolen. A $99, the TouchPad is a different story. It's practically disposable.
Like a laptop, you can password protect your TouchPad to prevent thieves from getting at your personal data. You also get the benefit of maps (with GPS), messaging, e-mail, Web browsing, and a calendar for your travel itinerary. And hey, if you can get that front-facing camera working, maybe you can video chat from your beach-side cabana, or take pictures of yourself grinning from all the money you saved by buying a liquidated TouchPad.