Today HP/Palm unveiled their new WebOS based Tablet, the TouchPad. Despite arrousing a lot of interest from the tech press, many are sceptical as to whether HP can succeed in this market.
HP has done a good job
From what was shown during the presentation, HP seems to have done a great job with WebOS on a tablet. The interface looks very polished and very simple. Of course, it looks very similar to iOS with a few improvements. All things being equal, it would be a worthy competitor to the iPad.
However, all things are not equal. Today, a purchaser must consider more than just the device itself.
It’s the ecosystem
The success today of Apple, and the reason they will continue to maintain a large market share, is the availability of apps. The Apple ecosystem will continue to be the best in terms of app quality, availability and ease of use. There is no way that HP will be able to get anywhere close.
Therefore, the question is, who would want to buy an tablet that has few, if any, apps available for it? Why would you buy a tablet and be left out in the cold?
Your average consumer will not opt for the WebOS TouchPad, unless it’s really cheap. HP will not be able to make a sustainable business out of selling cheap tablets. If they wanted to do that, they would have used Android. Instead, they want to be at the top of the market with Apple.
So, as a consumer spending $600-$700 on a tablet, will I take the safe, cool choice and opt for the iPad, or will I risk my money on the TouchPad? Will I go for a system with no apps or the system with the most apps? Will I buy the same as my friend?
Very few consumers will opt for TouchPads, they are not going to make a success of this tablet for HP.
In medium to large business, computers, phones and printers are all bought by IT tech guys. These guys want a simple, straightforward life. They want systems that are easy to manage and are relatively tied down. They don’t care whether you can play Angry Birds on your tablet or not.
HP has a great presence and great relationships amongst these buyers. They are already selling laptops, desktops, servers and printers. With the Palm Pré phone and the TouchPad, HP can now sell even more to these people within businesses. And HP can sell big quantities.
Businesses may want tablets for several reasons, but imagine it’s to put custom software on it, then the TouchPad is a contender. Imagine you are tasked to buy tablets, your only real choice is between Apple, RIM and HP. If you are a HP shop, you’re scared of Apple because you don’t know it, the RIM Playbook is too small, but you know HP and you know their service guys well, so you buy the TouchPad.
In addition, the HP guy does you a great deal on Palm Pré phones and you can save money on having to run RIM BlackBerries that everyone is complaining about anyway (because users want iPhones).
Why won’t Businesses buy Android Tablets?
With the short life-cycles of these tablets, and the different form factors, not to mention the lack of maintenance tools, your corporate IT guys will steer well clear of Android tablets. They are too unstable, unpredictable and risky.
They will only just about manage to keep up with the annual upgrade cycles of Apple and HP.
Won’t WebOS on PCs drive apps for the tablet?
HP also announced that they will be shipping WebOS on their PCs to consumers (Businesses run their own windows installations, so no WebOS there). It’s a great idea to get more people having access to WebOS, however designing applications for a mouse and pointer PC is very different than designing for touch-based tablets.
So whilst this may increase the number of apps available, because to some degree app-logic can be the same, it’s no panacea for making WebOS an attractive platform for developers.
HP has come out with an attractive solution that can be sold to the channels they know best, probably as part of a big solution package for businesses.