Big business has a tendency to squash innovative products, as bringing them to market is a risk. Companies may be able to envision and plan innovative gadgets but they rarely bring them to market. This is the reason Apple has been standing out from the crowd for so long, as detailed brilliantly by PC World.
If you want to make the product that everyone else compares their product to, you have to go outside the envelope. You have to take a risk to build something nobody has told you they want, because they don’t know they want it yet, and then you have to invest in it and stick with it until you get it right.
This describes the difference between Apple and other companies in the computing space (including mobile technology). You cannot just listen to what your customers say they want, because you'll only get more of the same. Your customers lack the vision that true innovation requires.
HP is in a unique position to step forward in an innovative way due to the acquisition of Palm that resulted in the TouchPad tablet. The PC maker can leverage this innovative direction, but only if the Palm DNA is allowed to flourish inside the HP campus. Please HP, do not squash the DNA that produces unique and innovative technology, nurture it. I know that you say you will, but if you realistically examine your history you have not really pushed the envelope in computing and stuck with it even when you have innovated.
I remember the tc1000, a hybrid Tablet PC that pushed PC technology to its limits. The thin slate, even by today's standards almost a decade later, that detached from the keyboard for use as a pure tablet was sheer genius. The problem is the Tablet PC was not a genre that caught on with the mainstream, so you dropped this product line like a hot potato. You switched to the safe convertible tablet model like everyone else. You weren't willing or ready to stick with it simply because it was innovative. Truth is had you stuck with the tc1000/1100 it could have evolved by now into a computing solution that rivals the iPad.
I have attended many meetings with your executives, HP, and every time I have inquired about product development that pushes the envelope of existing products in the market, your answer has always been the same. "Our customers tell us they want..." is always your response, and this never leads to innovation. Your customers cannot possibly know they want something they have never seen before, the very definition of innovation as PC World pointed out. You have to show them what they want once you produce it on your own.
HP you are in the position to do that with webOS, which can produce innovation across your entire product line. But you can't do that simply by listening to your customers, you must listen to the Palm team now on your campus. They have a history of innovation if not one of solid business moves, and that should be ingrained into the HP way. You have the opportunity to step up and shake the conservative PC world up just as Apple continues to do regularly, but only if you let it happen.
Image credit: Flickr user Global X