How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

Summary: The HP TouchPad was one of the shortest-lived mobile products ever produced. HP doomed the TouchPad to failure, either intentionally or through sheer incompetence.

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The HP TouchPad was a major product rollout subsequently cancelled by HP in just a few weeks. The cancellation caught industry watchers by surprise, and touched off a bizarre series of actions including dumping the entire company's inventory for clearance bin prices. Hindsight is said to have 20/20 vision, and as a result it is now apparent that HP, deliberately or through sheer incompetence, doomed the TouchPad to failure.

The company threw a big press event in February this year, and it was a rare event in that the excitement generated rivaled that of most Apple launch events. Thousands of press members, myself included, made the trek to San Francisco and were caught up in the hullabaloo that HP created. The excitement for the first tablet running HP/Palm's webOS was so thick in the atmosphere it could be cut with an iPad. The event was successful in creating crazy excitement for a new product such as rarely happens. The only ommisions dampening attendees' enthusiasm were the lack of a ship date and pricing.

Those two omissions played a pivotal role in the failure of the TouchPad. Had HP actually launched the TouchPad at that event by making them available for purchase when the press coverage was so high, the initial sales figures likely would have satisfied even HP. That would have happened if the retail pricing was close to, or even slightly lower than that of the iPad. The press coverage put the product all over the news, and the excitement behind that coverage was tangible. All that was needed to make for a successful launch was to make the TouchPad available for purchase right after the event, with firm shipping dates.

Instead HP kept working on the product behind the scenes, out of sight of the press corps that had fallen in love with the tablet. Nothing visibly was happening, and the news coverage quickly died off. This took the TouchPad off of prospective buyer's radars, which was a total waste of a fantastic launch event. The longer the product stayed off the market, the more interested parties forgot about it.

When HP finally rolled the product out for sale, fully six months after the bash by the bay, it was the softest, quietest launch possible. HP doesn't have its own retail stores like Apple, so it depended on major retailers to create a splash for the actual TouchPad launch. This didn't happen, anywhere.

I walked into a major Best Buy store in Houston, a major market and home of a big HP installation, and expected to see at least a few people looking at the TouchPad. This was wishful thinking on my part as neither HP nor retailers had promoted the launch much. Not only did I not see any buyers looking at the TouchPad, I didn't see any TouchPads either. When I asked to see one the Best Buy representative told me they hadn't put them out yet, even though that day was the big launch day. They planned to put out the display later, when they had some time free.

The scene in Best Buy just two months later when HP dropped the price to $99 was a stark difference. That price drop followed the company's bizarre announcement that the entire webOS hardware line was cancelled. HP intended to empty out the supply chain and move on, without the TouchPad or any webOS phones in the market.

That created a frenzy for Best Buy, with over 70 people waiting outside at the same store that was empty on launch day, for the store to open to snag a cheap TouchPad before they all ran out. This scene was repeated all over the country, and an estimated one million tablets were sold in less than a week.

HP stuck to its guns about canceling the TouchPad, and rumors are swirling that nobody wants to buy the webOS business from them. I would not be surprised if HP simply shuts it down soon, and allows the platform to die a quiet death.

In hindsight it almost seems that HP decided right after the big February press event that it didn't want to play in the cut-throat mobile space. I picture an executive meeting where everyone asked what they should do with this unseemingly webOS stuff? I imagine a vote was taken where the result was HP would just throw the TouchPad up against the wall and see if it stuck. With no backing, it didn't, and HP closed the doors on one of the most innovative mobile products to come along in years. Since the iPad, anyway.

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Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Mobile OS, Mobility, Operating Systems, Tablets

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57 comments
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  • RE: How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

    On a positive note, apparently 3.0.5 has already been spotted in the wild. Even if the TouchPad is doomed, its not done yet.
    capt4chris@...
    • RE: How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

      @capt4chris@... I'm sure those who picked up the $99 version are completely happy. Just having a couch browser is worth that much whether you use it for anything else, or not. So, there will always be at least a small following for the device.

      Personally, if they plan to just kill the webOS, I think they should dump it into open source and let hobbyists continue tweaking it forever.
      BillDem
      • RE: How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

        @BillDem

        I am very happy. It is the best operating system I've used. They could give it to open source community...

        But I'm pretty sure Barnes and Noble would want their own OS
        Fat Albert 1
      • RE: How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

        @BillDem

        I agree. That's the only real path forward for WebOS. Too bad too. It's going to go the way of OS/2, BeOS and Garnet.
        Olderdan
      • RE: How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

        @BillDem

        HP already cut loose the developers, so the only thing left is the brand, which they've quite publicly tarnished. I can't believe Leo was paid $20 million for this cluster.
        tkejlboom
      • RE: How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

        @BillDem I was very happy to get two touchpads during the fire sale. While I like WebOS, I was more happy once I installed android on my tablets a couple weeks ago. Android seems to run a bit quicker and has tons of apps. Can't wait until ICS.
        K B
      • RE: How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

        @BillDem
        TP is much more useful with CyanogenMod 7 on it. The only process takes only about 10 minutes with a good tutorial...
        http://reviewhorizon.com/2011/10/how-to-install-cyanogenmod-on-hp-touchpad/
        soricon
  • Good Article

    One can only imagine what HP was thinking. And didn't they pay billon$ for WebOS? What a colossal waste. I wonder how many people will get laid off to make up for the loss? And the suckers who bought one of those tablets, even the $99 ones - they are garbage.
    jpr75_z
    • RE: How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

      @jpr75_z

      So, in other words, you've never used one because you clearly have no idea what you are talking about.
      Wakemewhentrollsgone
    • RE: How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

      @jpr75_z
      Then why are they still more than twice that price on eBay?
      elbe1@...
      • RE: How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

        @elbe1@... This is what gets me about these devices. It is clear that they could have sharply discounted them to say $275. Even if that is below cost, if they sold enough, there are lots of revenue streams that are created when there are lots of devices in people's hands. To be honest, I think they are making a mistake not getting back into the game even now.
        redhaven
    • the real cancellation reason was

      @jpr75_z
      legal threats from Job$ and M$.
      LlNUX Geek
      • conspiracy theorist eh?

        @Linux Guru Advocate
        What possible kind of threats? All possible software in the acquired Palm, all possible hardware in HP's own history.
        polarcat
      • RE: How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

        @Linux Guru Advocate
        Why are you so against people making money and being able to pay others to work for them? Don't get mad. It's just a question.
        Galidari
      • RE: How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

        @Linux Guru Advocate
        What other comment could we expect from someone with such a nickname?
        anigart
      • RE: How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

        @Linux Guru Advocate You better adjust your tin foil hat before some reality slips through.
        non-biased
    • RE: How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

      @jpr75_z
      I bought a 32GB Touchpad for $150. I wouldn't consider myself a sucker. I've put Android on mine and it runs really fast and has access to all the Android apps. It's a great little device for the price.

      Even without Android it does a great job of web browsing and casual email, Angry Birds, etc. For that price it would have to be pretty rubbish to be a waste of money.
      allusernamestaken
    • RE: How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

      @jpr75_z

      (Note to everyone: don't feed trolls :-p)
      spacespeed
    • Follow the money...

      @jpr75_z - The more billions they pay for something, the bigger the deal. The bigger the deal, the bigger the bonus for the suits. If the deal falls out of favor, what's the worst that will happen? They will pay the suits a few million in severance and reduce costs by laying off a few hundred or a few thousand people. Business as usual.
      pwatson
    • RE: How HP doomed the TouchPad to failure

      @jpr75_z I agree on the first part...HP squandered WebOS and their money. But I think my touchpad is awesome for $99, but if I was to have paid $499, I'd be quite disappointed.
      limburger2001