HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

Summary: The HP TouchPad hitting retailers in a few days may very well be the last stand for competitors for the iPad. A few factors in HP's favor give it the best chance to compete with the iPad to date.

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Apple shook up the mobile space with the introduction of the original iPad. The futuristic slate design coupled with Apple's masterful marketing captured the imagination of consumers in the millions. The sheer number of units sold by Apple shows the iPad is not just selling to the Apple faithful, it has crossed the mainstream consumer boundary by appealing to a broad cross-spectrum of buyers. Many tablets based on the Android platform have appeared with none of them grabbing even a small fraction of the appeal of the iPad. The HP TouchPad hitting retailers in a few days may very well be the last stand for competitors for the iPad.

I have written in the past that I have seen no proof that a tablet market exists outside of the iPad, and having witnessed the dismal launch of big-name Android tablets nothing has changed my view. Android tablets are not selling well by anyone's standard, and RIM has not set sales records with the BlackBerry PlayBook. Apple keeps selling millions of iPads, and a big bank of competitors keeps releasing tablets that few are buying.

Analysts have noticed this too, as reports of tablet makers slowing down production of brand new tablet models tells the tale. Recent surveys still show clearly that the iPad is growing even though the number of competing products in the market is increasing. Consumers are buying iPads but not other tablets in significant numbers.

With no market clearly defined for tablets other than the iPad, HP is about to enter the fray with its first webOS tablet. The TouchPad may be the last stand of iPad competitors in the attempt to garner significant market share from Apple. The good news for HP is the TouchPad is different enough from the pack to have a shot at carving that share.

Size. It is no coincidence that HP is producing the TouchPad with the same size as the iPad. Android tablet makers have chosen different sizes for their offerings, but HP is reproducing the 9.7-inch display running at 1024x768 of the iPad. It doesn't sound like a big difference compared to the many Android tablets with 10.1-inch displays, but it really is. Those larger tablets are using a wide-screen format that Apple has passed on and HP is wise to do the same. This allows the TouchPad to have a similar footprint of the iPad, which has proven popular with consumers. It is also better for using the tablet in portrait orientation, as the wide-screen format is too narrow.

Polish. The appeal of the iPad is how polished the tablet experience is for the user, something Honeycomb tablets are sadly lacking. The TouchPad uses HP's webOS which has the most polished user interface on any tablet. The demonstrations I have seen of the TouchPad in action show a simple interface that is extremely attractive and polished in appearance. It is the first tablet interface that looks better than the iPad's, and has better features presented in an intuitive package.

Distribution channels. HP is the first company producing a tablet to compete with the iPad that has the global channels already in place to give the TouchPad a massive retail presence at launch. The company also has tremendous production capacity to flood those channels with product, so all of the pieces are in place. All HP must do to capitalize on this is market the heck out of the TouchPad at launch. The HP name is already famous in both the household and the enterprise, so with proper marketing the TouchPad has a serious shot at grabbing good sales numbers.

The launch of the TouchPad into the tablet market is a big gamble for HP. There is no proof a non-iPad tablet market even exists, but HP has all of the right things in place to give it a serious shot. This will be interesting to watch unfold as the TouchPad hits the market, and we see what the consumer reaction is to a non-iPad.

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Topics: iPad, Hewlett-Packard, Mobility

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108 comments
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  • Is it a Windows-8-every-platform-type-of-OS?

    Hi, James. You said last night that HP is launching this from the business side rather than consumer side. Could this OS compete on the desktop with a Windows 8? If HP puts this OS on PCs as a boot option, it could really be interesting.
    markh@...
    • RE: HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

      @markh@... HP has already stated they will have PCs dual-boot with webOS, so it's going to happen. I don't believe it's intention is to compete with the desktop, just allow it to run there for those who want it to.
      JamesKendrick
      • RE: HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

        If I got a computer with WebOS installed as a dual boot, I would wipe it out and have the computer only boot Windows. Of course that is what I already do with any computer that I purchase.
        jfreedle2@...
  • RE: HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

    The more I read about your thoughts on Tablets the more convinced I am that you don't understand the market at all.
    slickjim
    • RE: HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

      @Peter Perry It's clear you disagree with me, but I understand the tablet market very well. Your beloved XOOM has not generated any significant sales at all, no matter how much you'd like to believe it has.
      JamesKendrick
      • People who don't study history etc etc

        @JamesKendrick

        Listen, android might not get the gold crown, but it is too early to count them out. Remember all of the articles about how the iPhone was going to stomp android?

        I see android being a big player in this market as well, it might just take a year or two.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

        @JamesKendrick You have no clue... This isn't about the XOOM... The Touchpad is using WebOS, look up the guy who designed it and then look up the guy who designed the Honeycomb UI... When you find out they're the same person then you can tell me you get it.

        Also, Honeycomb isn't about one Tablet, is an army of them.
        slickjim
      • RE: HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

        @JamesKendrick
        Android will very likely compete. Also, Windows 8 will compete. Vista sold more than 400 million copies and was a "flop." An equivalent flop for Windows 8, with 10% of its sales being on "tablets" (I would call the iPad a slate, since it lacks a keyboard, but we can lump them together if you'd like) would put 40 million touch-enabled Windows machines out there.

        If it is a Windows 7 style success, those will be *year one* numbers.
        x I'm tc
      • RE: HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

        @Peter Perry
        The fact that Honeycomb is about "an army of them" is not good news for Honeycomb. We've seen enough of these things now that a certain commoditization is already becoming apparent. And that means that "the army" just turns into so many competitors carving up their own market, denying any one of them enough volume to ever get price-competitive.

        With Apple selling 40 or 50 million of these things per year, somebody will need to sell at least 10 million units to even break even on them. That can't happen if a half-dozen Samsung-class vendors are beating each other over the head and shoulders with virtually identical products.

        I like HP's chances. They have a direct pipe into corporate IT, they can play pricing games that others can't (discounts on a bundle involving 300 servers, 5000 tablets, 4,000 laptops, etc.), a decent reputation, and a unique product. They will get a share of this business, although probably more at RIM's expense than Apple's.
        Robert Hahn
      • @jdakula

        Microsoft did not sell 400 million copies of Vista. 400 million PCs with vista pre-installed were purchased, mostly by corporations as part of their regular upgrade cycles. With tablets, Apple rules the brand mindshare.
        fr_gough
      • RE: HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

        @Robert Hahn that is where you are wrong... There will always be companies that will flock to the likes of Windows and Android so they can compete and they do make money, just not the same margins as Apple but then again, Apple's money is coming heavily on Media.


        With Google, all they care about is becoming the number 1 player for the Mobile OS and once the Netflix / Hulu apps roll for the Tegra 2 Honeycomb based Tablets they will take off.

        As for Apple, the iPad 2 seems to be easily found on store shelves in my area now so momentum has stalled... I bet we don't see 50 Million reached this year.
        slickjim
      • RE: HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

        @JamesKendrick You're not looking at the market objectively, and jumping to conclusions. The two tablets from major manufacturers that have been out the longest are the Galaxy Tab 7" and the Xoom. Both of those units do not compete in the same space as the iPad $499 model which is Apple's most popular model by far. If you make comparisons between the Xoom and the high end iPad, the sales figures are much much closer.

        It won't be until the Galaxy 10.1 and 8.9 are out for a while that we'll get a better sense of the market. Also, many people are looking forward to the Toshiba tablet as well. That won't be out until even later this year.

        I completely disagree with you about the format too. The 4:3 format of the iPad is old and no one in their right mind would use it going forward. HP will regret it, and it's not why the iPad is more popular. In fact, in iOS5 Apple has needed to come up with a split keyboard to use in portrait mode because of user complaints that the unit is too wide in portrait mode to thumb type. That's not the case with the Android 16:9 tablets. The width in portait mode is just about perfect for thumb typing. Also with 16:9 you can see much more of the web page in portrait. And in landscape videos play better by taking up the whole screen without cropping etc. so you don't have black bars at the top or bottom.
        mrxxxman
      • RE: HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

        @fr_gough

        "Microsoft did not sell 400 million copies of Vista. 400 million PCs with vista pre-installed were purchased..."

        Um, what? So what if Vista came on PCs preinstalled, that's not still a sale? The simple fact of the matter is, at its height, there were 400 million computers using Vista as their OS, and that was considered a debacle. Should Apple only get credit when they sell you a blank slate and then you go out and install iOS on it? In that case, Apple has sold zero iPads.

        The simple fact of the matter is that yes, Apple has mindshare in tablets, but they don't have anything *like* the mindshare that MS has with Windows. Windows slates and tablets (and touchscreen laptops and and touchscreen netbooks and even touchscreen desktops) will sell by the millions because even if they are only a small percentage of all the Windows machines sold (like, less than 1!), that is *still* millions.

        My guess is that, shortly after Windows 8 comes out and the big companies have a chance to get up to speed, *most* PCs -- even desktops -- will ship in their default configurations with a touchscreen display, and thus there will be hundreds of millions of Windows 8 touchscreen PCs for developers to target -- many, many, many more than there will be iPads, iPhones, iPods, or iWhateversnexts.

        Note, this is not a defense of MS. Windows 8 may suck eggs for all I know. As someone who uses Windows, I *hope* it is good for my sake (but not for MS'...I have no desire to see them succeed nor fail since I don't own any stock in the company). It is just a forgone conclusion that, as a monopolist, they will have a degree of success. All these bloggers who write them off because Windows 7 slates aren't selling when Windows 7 wasn't really designed for slates are kind of missing that point.

        Note that Apple, who are not in a dominant position in any area in which they compete, are making money hand over fist. They will likely see their market share tumble, maybe even to the single digits, in both phones and tablets in the next few years, but *continue* to make money hand over fist. This is something they are very good at. Even their Mac business, at a tiny slice of the overall PC business, is highly profitable. Android, for instance, is beating iOS in usage, but has only a tiny fraction of iOS marketshare where the market is the $$$ being made. Indeed, it is not clear at all that the entire Android ecosystem is generating much money *for anyone*.

        So, Apple will be fine in slates for a while. But counting everyone else out, especially MS, is just crazy.
        x I'm tc
      • RE: HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

        @JamesKendrick Yes I agree. Android tablets may have had a chance if Google had policed what was allowed to run the OS on a tablet and make those specs stirngent. Unfortunately they have become a haven for malware and cheap tablets. Microsoft will probably the the "only" real competitor in the tablet market if they put out a good product with Windows 8. The early signs are promising. They have the name recognition and they have set strict standards for any platform that can even have Win 7 Phone to put on their devices. In this game, being a little controlling may be the payoff. I hope so.
        mlbslugger
      • RE: HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

        @goff256 [i]Remember all of the articles about how the iPhone was going to stomp android? [/i]
        Yes, and I also remember all the articles and posts that Android tablets were going to destroy the iPad by the end of 2010, your point is? Nobody knows what is going to happen. I don't think Android is out of the game but they have most definitely had a rough start and it's going to be a hard comeback.
        non-biased
      • RE: HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

        @Peter Perry [i]With Google, all they care about is becoming the number 1 player for the Mobile OS and once the Netflix / Hulu apps roll for the Tegra 2 Honeycomb based Tablets they will take off.[/i]
        You do realize how pathetic that statement makes Honeycomb based tablets look don't you? You are basically saying that they are not worth having unless they run Netflix or Hulu. In other words they are only good for watching streaming video unlike the constant claims that Android tablets are good for getting work done while iPads are not. I don't agree with your conclusion but it's pretty funny coming from such a rabid fandroid like yourself.
        non-biased
    • RE: HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

      @Peter Perry

      Then please give us your insights Peter? We would all love to here again how Android will crush the iPad. And how Honeycomb is the most stable tablet OS ever built. :)
      dave95.
      • RE: HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

        @dave95. Just wait and Watch Dave, Momentum is building just like it did on the phones.
        slickjim
      • @Peter Perry

        Which specific phone running the Android OS is burying the iPhone? Answer: None. What you have is one company (Apple) making $$$$ selling their smart phone, and a score of other companies scrabbling for second place.
        fr_gough
      • RE: HP TouchPad: Last stand for iPad competitors?

        @Peter Perry

        If for 4 years, and over 100 different Android phone on every carrier network known to man can't make the iPhone irrelevant, what makes you think Android tablets will to iPads?

        And companies like Asus will begin scaling back on tablet production this year due to poor sales, while Apple is set to ramp up their production with a new Brazil plant.
        dave95.