Hewlett-Packard is planning to launch it’s TouchPad tablet this summer. The tablet is based on the WebOS operating system just as the smartphones sold by HP’s Palm business unit. Given the success of the iPad many have speculated that there is no room for another tablet competitor beyond Apple and the Android tablets. Despite Apple’s success both HP and Research In Motion have announced tablets to enter the market later this year. This post will consider the advantages and disadvantages that HP faces as it launches the TouchPad tablet.
HP does have a number of advantages in the tablet market. First they have control of both the hardware and the software just as Apple does. This may not seem like that much of an advantage but it truly is. When a manufacturer is attempting to get the utmost in performance out of a platform the ability to tune the device from both a hardware and software perspective can be a real benefit. I believe that the only reason Apple is able to get such good performance and battery life out of the iPad 2 is because they control both aspects of the product.
WebOS is one of the best operating systems in the market. The operating system is multitasking, graphically attractive and well suited to multitouch controls. It is relatively intuitive to learn and is a very appealing solution on the TouchPad tablet. It also features Synergy which allows users to synchronize across multiple devices via the cloud. This facilitates entry of data such as an address on one device knowing that it will be synchronized and available on all the devices that support WebOS automatically. Lastly and perhaps most importantly HP has announced that WebOS is coming to Windows PCs. While short on specifics the company has made it known that most applications that run on the Pre smartphones and the HP TouchPad will also run on the PC in this WebOS environment. The company has made it clear that it is not an alternative to WIndows but will be a supplement to Windows on their PCs when it arrives. This alone will dramatically boost the appeal of WebOS to developers because it will dramatically increase the number of “sockets” that developers can sell their applications into. WebOS on the PC should increase the number of applications available for the platform once it arrives.
HP has a distribution channel that is second to none around the world and this is a clear advantage for HP in the tablet market assuming they can equip their reseller partners and their direct salesforce with the tools necessary to effectively sell the TouchPad.
HP is very strong in the enterprise and has been shown the enterprise is interested in tablets. This alone bodes well for HP as they are a trusted partner for many large enterprises.
In a nutshell, the iPad 2. The second generation iPad is a very strong product in the market. It is a compelling platform in a beautifully designed package. The product has a very strong application store with a very large and growing number of applications that are tailored to the iPad. The product has sold extremely well and it’s success is on top of the already very successful iPad. In short Apple’s position will be hard to assail in the market. HP may find that the competitor they are up against in the tablet market is actually RIM more than Apple if they target the enterprise with the TouchPad.
Android based tablets have emerged as the perceived alternative to Apple in the tablet space. Similar to the situation that exists in the smartphone market the trade press seems to want to make the tablet market a battle between Apple and Google and conveniently avoid the fact that other platforms exist as viable alternatives. This does make it harder for HP to convince the world that there is room for another operating system in the tablet market.
HP is behind in the application portfolio for the device. They have roughly 7,000 applications available for WebOS currently so they do not look good in comparison to either Apple or Android. While the application portfolio currently has many of the most popular applications the company will clearly need to narrow the perceived gap in order to make consumer comfortable.
There are clearly many additional factors that will influence this market and I have just tried to point out a few considerations. This summer the challenge begins for HP in the tablet space as they bring the TouchPad to the market. So will HP’s TouchPad emerge as a success in the exploding tablet market? You tell me.
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