Can HP turn around the TouchPad?
It wasn't all bad, of course. Most everyone liked webOS's elegance, and many described the TouchPad as being "promising" or "having potential", something that HP's Jon Rubinstein seized on in an email to his team attempting to lift morale in the face of all these tepid reviews. The problem is that it's not enough for webOS to be something that might potentially be good someday. We've been hearing about webOS's promise ever since it was first unveiled way back in January of 2009, and ever since then we've seen device after device that has failed to live up to the potential of the thoughtful OS powering it.
Yes, last year's acquisition of Palm by HP probably put the brakes on things for a little while, but, if you want to win, at some point you have to stop playing catch up and start getting ahead of your competitors. By the time HP issues software updates to address several of the TouchPad's most glaring problems, there's a good chance that Apple will have launched a third-generation iPad, one that might put HP even further behind the market leader. HP needed a game-changing, head-turning entry if they wanted to compete in the tablet wars, and it's hard to imagine them grabbing a sizable slice of the market with something that's just OK.
This puts HP, which made webOS the center of its mobile and connected device strategy when it bought Palm, in a difficult position. As I wrote in the newsletter last fall, HP simply cannot afford to be marginalized in the mobile space. If the TouchPad doesn't succeed -- and my guess is that it will only sell in modest numbers -- they're going to be even further behind than they already are. Remember, they made a big bet by going with their own platform rather than just using someone else's OS, but it looks fairly clear that the TouchPad isn't going to have the impact they wanted, at least not anytime soon.
So what happens now? Here are a few things HP might do, not all of which are mutually exclusive:
1. Cut its losses and get out.
I think this is unlikely given how much they've already invested into webOS as both a platform and a strategy, but it's entirely possible that HP CEO Leo Apotheker will decide to abandon it and go with something else for mobile devices. Why? Well, if you believe that webOS is unlikely to ever grab more than a few points of marketshare then there's no way to justify the massive investment in developing and maintaining your own operating system. They pinned their hopes on webOS, but it wouldn't be the first time a major player had to concede that they couldn't make it on their own (see Nokia). But, as I said, I think this is unlikely to happen.
2. Cut the price of the TouchPad
Here's the thing: it's not just enough to come up with something that's about as good as the iPad. You have to give consumers a compelling reason to buy your product over the alternatives, and apart from a nice UI there don't seem to be a whole lot of reasons to buy a TouchPad over an iPad or even a Honeycomb tablet. As painful as it would be for HP's bottom line, they probably should have priced the TouchPad at $399 and positioned it as an iPad-quality tablet without the iPad price. It's not hard to see plenty more people deciding to buy one at that price and it'd give them a very clear point of differentiation with the iPad.
3. Double down and do whatever it takes to make the TouchPad great -- just don't take too long to do it
Cutting the price would help things, but if HP doesn't want to cut its margin they absolutely need to improve the product (doing both would be even better). Samsung responded to the iPad 2 by reworking the Galaxy Tab 10.1 to make it thinner and lighter, and, even if it was painful, it was probably the right thing to do.
HP has already poured a lot of money and effort into webOS, but it doesn't look like those efforts are going to pay off in this first-generation TouchPad, which means they're going to need to spend even more time and money to make some drastic improvements to both its hardware and software -- and do it quickly, since the TouchPad was already late to the game. Along the way, they absolutely need to come up with some killer features to differentiate it from the other tablets out there, too (things like Touch-To-Share are a good start, but probably not enough). That won't be easy, but that shouldn't be impossible for a company with the slogan "Invent".
4. Do more to attract developers
As much as we focus on the devices themselves, this is ultimately a battle between ecosystems, and to win that battle you need a big library of quality apps. The challenge there is that you get this chicken-and-egg problem where users don't want devices without apps and devs don't want to make apps for devices without users. If you can get over that hump, like Android and iOS have, you can create something of a network effect that can really drive platform adoption, but it's a really hard thing to do and it's not totally clear how many different ecosystems that market can or will support.
I don't doubt that HP has been working really hard at attracting developers and it looks like they've gotten more apps built for the TouchPad than Google has for Honeycomb. However, they're still not anywhere close to the number of apps for the iPad, and you can't really blame devs for focusing on those platforms where they think they can make the most money. Offering good, easy-to-use development tools and doing tons of outreach is important, but until webOS reaches some kind of critical mass HP probably doesn't have a ton of options besides just paying people to make apps for their platform. Microsoft has done this with Windows Phone, and, while it hasn't magically solved all their problems, it has helped them grow their app catalog to a pretty decent size quickly considering how small its userbase is.
5. Find partners
There are already some rumblings that HP would like to license webOS to third parties like Samsung that might be afraid of becoming overly reliant on Google and Microsoft. Would this be a smart thing for HP to do? Well, it would certainly help them reach the scale that webOS needs, but it also would put HP in the awkward position of building and selling webOS devices that would compete against those of its licensees. This, of course, is exactly the position that Palm found itself in just over a decade ago, and the result then was a disastrous split of the company into a hardware business and an OS business. I'm not sure that history would repeat itself, but deciding to license webOS to other manufacturers isn't as simple as just handing them some code. It'd require HP to adjust its entire strategy, and having to keep partners happy may actually slow down their ability to innovate and roll out new improvements to both the OS and hardware.
6. Focus on enterprise
After last week's reviews there were a handful of interviews with HP execs insisting that they weren't going after the iPad at all and that the TouchPad's true target was enterprise users. Positioning the TouchPad as an enterprise device could potentially be a good way to segment the market (Cisco is definitely doing this and RIM is sort of trying to do this). One of HP's advantages here is that it already has sales relationships with tons and tons of companies of all sizes, and I'm sure they will try to position the TouchPad as a secure, enterprise-ready option that'll work with existing infrastructure.
If enterprise is HP's real focus, should they even pay much attention to the consumer market? It's a tough question to answer, but it may be difficult to do both at the same time. While there is obviously going to be a lot of overlap, what businesses will need out of a tablet will often be very different than what consumers are looking for. You can't just declare that your tablet is "enterprise-ready" and sell them bundled with laptops and servers, you have to make sure that your product supports the security and management tools that any decently-sized company is going to need before it feels comfortable deploying a new piece of hardware to its employees. It sounds like HP is making a big push here, but even they admit that the pieces aren't all in place yet and so it may be a long time before enterprise IT departments feel comfortable making that investment. Could HP gain an edge over Apple by focusing entirely on the needs of enterprise customers?
What happens next?
Introducing a better product at a better price with tons of apps and all sorts of fancy new features is a tall order, but it's basically table stakes if you want to make a dent in the burgeoning tablet market. For better or for worse, Apple is doing so much better than everyone else that the tablet market may end up like the portable media player market was a few years back, with one product (i.e. the iPod) dominating everyone else. That would be an absolutely awful outcome, and while its encouraging that there are so many companies trying to compete, fighting to be second-best is not exactly inspiring. I don't know what HP will do next, but I do know that if they want to make webOS anything more than a footnote in history they need to start delivering on those promises.
Maybe if I was running it side by side with an ipad more of the lag I read about would have been apparent, but it seemed like a good product to me. I think a soft touch back like on the Pre3 would be a big improvement though, the massive smudging was pretty ugly on the unit I tried.
I haven't seen any indication from HP they are taking this issue seriously. All they say is "it's not a sprint, it's a marathon". But even in a marathon, you need to be faster than your competition.
Another knock is there is no announcement again AFAIK about any media stores in Canada or other locations outside the USA.
Music is supposed to come from the Amazon mp3 store, which is US only so far. TV shows and Movies? Dunno.
Sure these may come in time, but again will people buy a product now hoping that the features they want will come in the future? I certainly would never recommend that strategy.
People who pirate video should have no problem, once they re-encode it to something that works.
We're talking about a business here though. HP wont make much money from the pirate community. Apple is making BILLIONS from the iTunes stores... HP could really use some of this revenue to continue improving WebOS.
Most of the knocks on the device seem to be based on alterior motives or simply come from uneducated sources who seem to have never had a TouchPad in their own hands.
Just about every single TouchPad user has glowed about the battery life. There are more TouchPad apps on launch day than there were Android Tablet apps on Launch day. I've heard a ton of people say they prefer the feel of the HP tablet in their hands versus the Apple device.
Is HP now the new Apple? Superior devices fighting against the establishment for mindshare? Easier to use, yet more powerful. Satisfied and enthusiastic purchasers. Bitter resentment from the establishment. Sounds familiar.
I was a huge proponent of what WebOS was on paper before it was released, and was strongly leaning toward buying the Pre. They have yet to release a compelling piece of hardware running WebOS, though, so I have lost interest. It's hard to overcome a hardware design disaster as huge as the Pre. It will be a long time before I trust them to make solid hardware after that fiasco... especially now that they are an HP division.
Amazon prices have dropped $30 in 1 week on the TP 32 gb version. So prices will continue to come down. The most important thing is HP doesn't need to sell alot the first year. Their enterprise, consulting forms the bulk of their 120 billion business. This is an investment so they have a stake in the mobile space. I'm not giving HP/webOS a free pass. They should have optimized the OS software further and put major core apps in complete form. But it's a good tablet right now and with next update it should be very good. (if it's not in 30 days, I'll consider alternatives) The TP will be a good 2nd place tablet in a market that needs viable contenders to Ipad. RIM hasn't done well, Androids have the cutting edge hardware but fragmented OS and lackluster sales.
As of last month Apple has sold 25 million iPads ( www.appleinsider.com/articles/11/06/07/ipad_sales_... ).
How many TouchPads will HP sell in its first year do you think?
I have just simply "had it" with my iPad and am selling it. It was my first (and last) Apple product. I could hardly wait to get it, but soon became terribly disillusioned when the sites I wanted to access kept putting up the message that I needed the latest version of Flash to play their animations. In the end, I just felt that it was too limiting for me. I am happy for those who think the iPad is wonderful, but I am terribly disappointed in it and found myself using it very, very little after a few exasperating months of trying to make it work for me.
I am not that sold on tons of apps, but would like Google Maps type of app and TelNav type of GPS navigation program on the TouchPad. I actually like Google Maps, but want to be able to move the line in the directions window to change their routing when I see a shortcut I think is better - but I like being able to "see" my position on the path as I progress in Maps.
Another thing I would love to see in a future TouchPad is a slot for a 32GB or 64GB expansion card for keeping movies and TV shows on for viewing when traveling. Even my 64GB with 3G iPad couldn't hold all the movies and TV shows in addition to music, books, and other apps I wanted to take on a long trip, so I had to take my laptop to be able to transfer movie/TV files. An expansion slot would help solve that issue on the TouchPad.
I don't need 3G or 4G because I have a MiFi for traveling, so wifi capability is all I need in my tablet.
I simply don't understand the competitiveness of folks that drives them to bash anything other than their personal choice. Personally, I love having choices and am convinced that freedom of choice is what helps drive innovations that bring much joy to all our lives. Yes, I am one of those who say, "Can't we just all get along?", "We can disagree without being disagreeable.", and "Live and let live."
1. Mobile: Android, iPhone, Windows Phone - is there really room for another OS?
2. Tablets: it's still basically all iPad, all the time. Android has a long way to go and may or may not get there. The Playbook is as good as dead. So there's a chance to be #2 but would it be phyrric, short-lived victory? Especially with Windows 8 hovering in the wings...
3. Enterprise: this may be the most crowded space of them all. While HP certainly has strong relationships and a significant server business it has to a large extent been built on a Wintel foundation. Can it leverage these relationships? Google is making a play with Chrome OS. Apple has sort of a passive enterprise business. Microsoft remains the gold standard here and has the advantage of being hardware independent...
HP has some wiggle room in their profit margin to offer discounts on the Touchpad, so you should expect to see that happening, especially around the holiday season our for corporate volume buys. I'm not a developer, but I keep hearing good things about the relative ease in developing apps for webOS, especially when out comes to porting from iOS. Angry Birds came out on webOS before Android. If HP can convince current iOS app devs that porting to webOS is both profitable and painless, that app count should rise pretty quickly.
Touchpad has been a big letdown at launch, but HP has the resources to gain ground.
In product sales, one of the most unreliable people to use for consumer feedback is one within the timeframe of their purchase. People who just shelled $600 for a non-essential item will still be 'loving' whatever tablet they choose for a few months unless immediate buyer's remorse sets in and they return the product. Phones fall into the essential category for several people so market analysis will treat them differently. A more accurate appraisal of buyer satisfaction will be in the 3-6 month period. It may be just as positive but it will be far more accurate to the product team at HP. Until then, people with discretionary limits will do what they typically do; find a tech review site they have come to trust for unbiased opinion and places value on similar feature sets to their own values.
I have yet to see a reviewer I trust recommend the product so I will not be purchasing one in its current form.
"...find a tech review site they have come to trust for unbiased opinion...", relying on second-hand information, instead of trying one for themselves. That is the heart of the my comment, isn't it? I've used a WebOS device for about a year now, but my wife has had an iPhone for several years, and my grandmother-in-law has an iPad. I've been able to try both OSes, and I can say I definitely prefer WebOS devices over iOS devices.
I have seen the mediocre reviews but have also seen glowing comments from those who have tried a TP. Clearly there is a discrepancy, very similar in my mind to how many movies rate one way with critics but very differently with movie goers. I have a feeling I will like the TP, but the only way to know for sure is to go and try one out. Will I like it after extended use? Guess I could by one. Buyer's remorse? 30-day return policy. That's the beauty of retail. No problem.
Have you tried using a TouchPad?
I for one am enjoying my iPad WAY more than I enjoyed the IBM PC. (I was an an Amiga guy anyway ;)
The touchpad as a PC for non-computer user who still wants to experience the web, email and facebook. I know my mother would be able to figure it out.
Problem is, I bought a Pre at launch. I've had that experience of checking for system and app updates every day. Seeing that the Kindle app is a placeholder, and Citrix's "tech preview" is virtually useless in most organizations is leaving me with a very familiar kind of disappointment. Like looking in the mirror and admitting you've once again failed to quit your vice of choice.
The TouchPad deserved better than it got in most reviews, but there's no denying it missed the high expectations we keep allowing ourselves for all this wasted potential. I wish they'd just go away until they actually nail it.
I also bought an original Pre from Sprint. Like you, I learned the hard way what happens to a device when the OS is great and the hardware is not. I had to replace my 1st Pre- and I still have the replacement. It has all the hardware vices everyone complained about...cracks in the side starting from the microUSB port and progressing up to the screen. Also, the microUSB port door fell out. I still have it in my car ashtray.
WebOS is now 2 1/2 years old. Even with the updates to 3.0 it still lacks hardware that lets it shine as it should. HP had best get it in gear and get it right. Otherwise, WebOS will become a footnote. Sad...
I'm now desperate to try living with an iPad during the return window. How much of that Flash video is available in HTML5? Can I accept the clicky button for switching apps? Can I really get XBMC on there streaming my MKVs?
Options 4 & 5 might be the best bet. With 4, if they could enlist some high profile apps onto their platform and maybe some exclusives, this could be a compelling component.
And with 5, this I think they need to do stat. One thing I've always said about WebOS is I love the OS, but not a fan of their hardware. Palm and now HP, just hasn't done a piece of hardware that accents the OS. If they were to licenses to Samsung or HTC, I would definitely buy a WebOS smartphone or tablet.
And it's not that the device is too expensive, it's that it's too expensive compared with a product that, for better or worse, every other option has to definie itself against. Right now there's not a very clear case for why the average consumer would buy a TouchPad over an iPad. Price is probably the easiest way for them to differentiate right now. It doesn't solve all of their problems -- see above -- but it's hard to imagine it not helping.
At $500, with a decent app selection and a snappy interface, I think it would be a decent competitor to the iPad 2 (even though the Touchpad is bigger). The stereo speakers are a welcome surprise when watching videos (e.g., YouTube), the OS has a lot of great things that Apple hasn't yet feature-matched, and phone integration that is industry leading. That's enough differentiation to earn respectable unit sales.
Agree apps alone do not guarantee an increase in sales. One of the problems with WP7 is the lack of enthusiasm for the platform by the US carriers. When I purchased the HD7 (excellent device) the day after it was released, there were no units on display at the busy T-Mobile store I visited. When I asked to see one, I got the "I think we have one charging out back" response. After about 6 minutes, the rep returned with a HD7. His knowledge of the platform could fit in a thimble with a plethora of room left. I bought one because I am a gadget geek, not because of the "could not care less" attitude of the sales rep.
I know my experience is anecdotal, but I have seen many similar posts on many tech sites. WP7 is very smooth / slick, but like iOS, too restricted, and controlled to be my daily driver.