HP's TouchPad: Where are the retail fireworks?

HP's TouchPad: Where are the retail fireworks?

Summary: Hewlett-Packard's long-awaited WebOS TouchPad appears to have fizzled at Best Buy on Fourth of July Weekend.

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Hewlett-Packard's long-awaited WebOS TouchPad appears to have fizzled at Best Buy on Fourth of July Weekend.

Walt Mossberg and David Pogue gave the HP TouchPad the kiss of death. Ex-Engadgeteer Joshua Topolsky wrote his usual exhaustive 2000+ worder, extremely critical and yet hopeful that the WebOS DNA might some day prove to be an asset.

TechRepublic's Jason Hiner has been a bit kinder, but he's always been a nice guy, and like myself, he's an actual technologist, and is willing to cut the company some slack and identify where the prime differentiators are.

I think I called it well over a week ago, but I really wanted to see how the TouchPad was going to perform at my local retail stores before making any kind of final judgement. So today on my lunch break I headed over to Best Buy over at Garden State Plaza, one of the busiest shopping malls and retail complexes in the entire country.

Granted, the 4th of July weekend probably isn't the smartest time to launch a new tablet. In New Jersey, a lot of people scooted out early and went down to the shore last night. But Garden State Plaza still was filled with plenty of cars at 11:30AM today.

I parked my car outside of Best Buy. No lines out the door, no police attempting to keep order. I walked in.

I glanced at the security guard. "Where is the HP display, you know, for the tablet?"

"Oh... all the computer stuff is upstairs." He motioned me to take the escalator. I took the ride to the top.

I walked over to who appeared to be the retail sales manager. "So where's the TouchPad?"

"The what?"

"You know, the HP Tablet. The one that goes on sale today."

"I don't think we carry that here."

"You're supposed to be their primary retail launch partner, how could you not have them?"

"Well, all the HP and tablet stuff is over there... (pointing) it might be on display, if you get the SKU, just get one of the stock boys to get one out of the cage."

"Okay."

I walked over to the tablet area, where there was a prominent display for the iPad and various Android tablets, including the Acer Iconia, the ASUS Transformer and the Motorola XOOM. Off to the side, on an empty white formica table was the HP TouchPad.

The article artwork at the top of this page says it all. Nobody was huddled around it. Nobody was playing with it. There were no lines of people asking to buy one. There was one other gentleman who came to buy an ASUS Transformer who asked me a few questions about it while I fondled it and took photos of the store.

"So, I see you look interested in the TouchPad. But you're going to buy the Transformer?"

"It costs $100 more than I am willing to spend. If I'm going to get one of those, I might as well buy an iPad."

"True enough."

I motioned over to the stockboy and pointed at the SKU for the TouchPad. "Can you get me one of these out of the cage?"

"Sure... you want the 16GB or the 32GB? We've got about sixteen units in stock if you want to buy more of them."

"16GB, thanks. Do you have any accessories, like the Touchstone or the cases? Or the keyboard?"

"Nope. I can check the Fashion Center store though. (calls other store on phone, asks for the electronics department, waits on hold for about 30 seconds) No, no accessories. The other store has about another 20 of these. Here's your tablet, I hope you like it, it seems pretty cool." He hands me the box.

"I was kind of expecting HP to have a better display, with demos and stuff. Maybe a customer rep to show it off."

"Yeah, well, HP came over to Garden State Plaza earlier in the week for an event when the Transformers movie came out as sort of a double promotion. But they haven't been here since. I heard they may have given the guys some training at the other store."

"How many of these have you sold today?"

"You're the first."

I handed the cashier my AMEX, paid, and walked out.

Did you buy your HP TouchPad today? How was your retail experience? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

See also on ZDNet:

HP TouchPad reviews are in: Released too early

Review: HP TouchPad is the productivity tablet

HP TouchPad WebOS tour (screenshots)

HP TouchPad reviews: It’s no iPad contender

Elsewhere on the network:

TechRepublic: Cracking Open the HP TouchPad

Teardown of HP TouchPad: Made like a PC and straightforward to repair

CNET: HP: Number of mobile apps doesn’t matter

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

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

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47 comments
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  • RE: HP's TouchPad: Where are the retail fireworks?

    All retail stores are getting ridiculously lazy. I mean the only manufacturer that does any serious in-store point-of-sale marketing is Apple! Telecom stores, big boxes, they're all getting pretty bad. Kinda justifies Amazon as a global sales leader, huh?
    reklissrick
    • Yet retail chains like Best Buy install 'Tablet Centres' in the opposite ..

      @reklissrick: ... place to Apple's booth -- even though the most central device for now, iPad, is somehow does not belong to that 'Centre'.

      Thus if inexperienced common customer wants to buy a tablet, meaning iPad, they are directed to the place where only iPad <i>lookalikes</i> are sold, such as Samsung Galaxy Tab (even the package is similar).
      DDERSSS
      • RE: HP's TouchPad: Where are the retail fireworks?

        @DeRSSS

        All the stores I have been into recently have a huge, snazzy, brightly lit Apple center in plain view of a random collection of barely labeled competitors.

        ie, the only visible marketing energy anywhere is pointing directly to Apple.

        Yep, definite anti-apple conspiracy.
        SlithyTove
    • RE: HP's TouchPad: Where are the retail fireworks?

      @reklissrick
      Where do you get this idea that Amazon is a "global sales leader"? Best Buy's latest annual sales are about $50 billion, while Amazon is around $34 billion.

      It seems that this is news to a lot of techies, but B&M stores are still where the vast majority of retail purchases occur. And it's not even close -- over 90% of retail transactions are done in stores, and the annual sales from Walmart stores alone dwarf the entire e-commerce sector.
      Woochifer
  • Just Wondering

    Why does the display say, "Coming soon?"
    WebSiteManager
    • RE: HP's TouchPad: Where are the retail fireworks?

      @WebSiteManager Good question. It should say "On sale now!"
      jperlow
      • It shows you how motivated sales associates are these days

        @jperlow <br>That no one even bothers to change the sign, unless they had nothing new to put in it's place.<br><br>Though in all fairness, they do little to help you even if you are intersted in the iPad.<br><br>It is likely not HP or their products at fault, it is the employess that are a detriment to it's sales.<br><br>

        :|
        Tim Cook
  • RE: HP's TouchPad: Where are the retail fireworks?

    I wonder if this store was just horribly not interested in yet another tablet. HP should have been more actively involved in getting stores interested in selling their touchpad
    grayknight-22253692004129760887070084760051
  • RE: HP's TouchPad: Where are the retail fireworks?

    Ha. This sounds very close to what happened to me last night at Best Buy! I stopped by to play with it before it's launch the following day and even though I heard BB supposedly has the TouchPad on display, no TP! One sales guy didn't know what I was talking about when I asked (and he worked in that Dept, too), the other gal said they hadn't gotten around to setting it out yet.

    When I was there I checked out the other tablets: some didn't have power, and none had internet connection... and this is supposed to be a tech store! Ever since Circuit City closed they have been a mess.
    GB11111
    • RE: HP's TouchPad: Where are the retail fireworks?

      @GB11111 <br><br>It's a common sight to see tablets in the off position (unable to power on) at BB, and without access to the web etc. Meanwhile iPads can be found in a nice promo display showing off all its features on a video loop. And they wonder why these alternative tablets are not selling?
      dave95.
      • RE: HP's TouchPad: Where are the retail fireworks?

        @dave95. <br>Marketing doesn't matter. It's all about USB ports and card slots and how many gigahertz the processor is. /geek
        Robert Hahn
  • RE: HP's TouchPad: Where are the retail fireworks?

    You went to best buy, thats says it all.. THe best buy stores all across the country are like that even in my state of Kentucky, the sales associates are completely useless. I only go in Best buy when i'm desperate lol. You should of went to Staples instead, now they will talk you to death but atleast they give the customers information
    Stannky
  • Use case marketing

    The apple marketing campaign sold the use-case to the public:<br>quick access to email, games, etc... -- along with subliminal social status, in-crowd, brand-magic messaging<br><br>A retail display at a store would be difficult way to sell the use-case of the wonders of the hardware spec, and the unknown wonders of the WebOS UI.

    edit: Comment not meant to demean the UI and the good efforts of HP; but rather to stress the impression that while WebOS may be a good UI, its ease of use is linked to ... <i>Familiarity</i>, which may not be familiar to the wider public.
    And don't forget the difficult realities of the loss of distinction in a market jammed with tablet bandwagons following the coat-tails of the iPad.
    voltrarian
  • Reserving judgment until 4th quarter results

    After the holidays will tell the true tale.

    Damage assessment will show that the predominance of Linux-driven devices outnumbers sales of non-Linux devices.

    Plain and simple. It will be a steam roller baby.

    HP will perfect the art in due course.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate
    • You sound optimistic

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate

      Though I would imagine that such optimism would be needed to keep one's self motivated at the all too dismal numbers in relation to Android tablet sales.
      :|
      Tim Cook
      • Let's be fair here...

        @Mister Spock <br><br>Funny you specified Android tablet sales... When iOS is mentioned (by anyone lately), it includes sales of <i>all</i> iOS devices -- iPods included. Android? oh, we have to differentiate phones and tablets... because 500k phone activations per day is too vulgar to compare to any other platform, apparently.<br><br>Also, if the media, including <i>this site</i> had crapped on the iPad like they have <i>every other tablet released</i>, the iPad would not enjoy the sales and prestige it does. (even though the iPad experienced every single growing pain this very site faults every other manufacturers' tablet with having)<br><br>Thirdly, don't fault D Scmitz for having optimism, (it's certainly better than the reality distortion the Apple fanboys enjoy)... have you ever used WebOS? I would take that any day with no apps and faults that can be fixed, over iOS and every free app Apple could give me (plus the 2 years Apple's had to work their kinks out).<br><br>D Schmitz actually has a great callout... give HP/WebOS 4 quarters, or even a 2 years. They have the ability to take an already fascinating o/s and develop that into a true tablet power. Whereas Apple is looking at dumbing not only all of their machines but also their software down, in order to apply one o/s that forces every one of their users to subscribe to their pay-for-play iTunes store. <br><br>Please do not be confused... Apple is not trying to 'make things more simple'... they are trying to direct all of their o/s users to the same checkout stand at the supermarket.<br><br>They've made it clear - iTunes (and by extension, iCloud) is their primary focus. And, as they made clear many times over in the past, anyone who wants otherwise better learn to live with disappointment.<br><br>That is all. Class dismissed.
        UrNotPayingAttention
      • Even if what you say is 100% true...

        @chmod 777 What is wrong with building a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door? If Apple makes things simple .... and part of that simplicity is a single cash register then what of it? I'm a guy... HATE shopping. Going from store to store the driving/parking and searching for the best bargain to my mind is a kind of insanity. If I can get one stop shopping and meet all my needs... So there. If Apple takes the time to make good products that meet my needs with the least amount of effort or fuss on my part why should I care if they Apple get all my business? It's sort of what they've
        earned is it not? I fail to see a problem here... It just seems to fit my needs/wants better than alternative solutions and there for the one who does it better gets my business. End of story.

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
    • Been There. Done That.

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate

      We seen that same pattern with netbooks. The predominance of linux-driven netbooks outnumbered sales of non-linux netbooks.

      Then again, we also saw an even greater predominance of linux-driven netbooks returned to retail outlets outnumbered returns of non-linux netbooks.

      Will history repeat itself?
      Your Non Advocate
      • There were Linux netbooks in stores?

        @facebook@... Not trolling ... but to this day I haven't seen a SINGLE Linux based netbook in any store around me. I'm pretty sure Linux is a much better OS for low powered netbooks. But so far I see nothing in the displays at local stores.

        So I honestly have to question the assertion that linux-driven netbooks outnumbered sales of non-linux netbooks .... because I haven't seen a single one.
        wackoae
    • Re: It will be a steam roller baby.

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate

      I could have sworn that I was reading an opinion from Dick Vitale!
      kenosha77a