A modicum of success – Mobile World Live

A modicum of success

22 AUG 2012

HP is reportedly resurrecting its mobile hardware strategy with its new Mobility Global Business Unit that will have responsibility for the company’s consumer tablets and other “segments and categories” that the vendor believes will offer “differentiated value” to customers.

The new division will fall under the company’s Printing and Personal Systems Group and be headed by former MeeGo boss at Nokia, Alberto Torres.

“With this move, we are building on our commitment to re-invest in mobility via dedicated leadership, focused research and development, amazing new products and a growing suite of applications and services,” Printing and Personal Systems Group boss Todd Bradley wrote in an internal memo.

HP already has its Windows 7-based Slate range for the enterprise market with the PC unit continuing to oversee the launch of another commercial device in the near future, according to the memo. The newly-created unit therefore appears to be solely focused on the consumer market.

But how does HP think it will benefit from renewing its assault on the tablet market and can it be successful? The recent past certainly suggests that it will be a hard slog.

HP has had little success in the consumer market historically, generating most of its revenue from enterprise kit, such as servers, PCs and software. Forays into the consumer market have resulted in little success – just see the TouchPad for proof. Challenging the iPad was never likely to be an option for the TouchPad but it also failed to stand out in the sea of other tablet devices that were competing for a slice of the consumer market.

After scrapping the TouchPad, HP appeared to write off webOS by making it open source and allowing webOS app developers to jump ship and join Google in May. What was left within HP is reportedly being spun off as a subsidiary called Gram.

HP will undoubtedly have learned lessons from the TouchPad debacle. For example, the TouchPad was clearly overpriced for the consumer market. Only the iPad can command such high prices due to the reputation and cache of the Apple brand.

Once the price of the TouchPad was slashed, it sold like hotcakes and even prompted an additional production run before it was scrapped for good.

In addition, the device’s webOS platform – an operating system with little resonance with the public compared to the likes of iOS, Android and Windows – didn’t set the world alight and suffered from a perception of being Palm’s second-hand technology.

Owing to HP’s long alliance with Microsoft and the fact that most companies – apart from Samsung and Amazon – have had difficulty in making money from Android, it seems likely that the new consumer tablets will use Windows 8. Creating a division from scratch that is focused on building consumer tablets running Windows 8 will certainly make the consumer market take HP more seriously as a tablet maker. The positive press given to Windows 8 – which is optimised for touch interfaces – is likely to help HP win over consumers for a new tablet. The tile-based interface, coupled with the close ties with Windows 8 for PCs and smartphones, will mean people will view Windows 8 tablets in a more positive light than those running Windows 7.

If HP can get the pricing, spec and design right, a new HP consumer tablet has a better chance of success than the TouchPad. But it still won’t be easy for HP. As mentioned earlier, in a market dominated by the iPad there are numerous companies competing for the rest of the sector. Android will continue to dominate the non-iPad market and HP has an opportunity to carve out a niche for Windows 8 devices.

Working with Windows 8 will present challenges though. The way in which sales of the iPad and Android tablets were driven by the earlier success of their related smartphones will be difficult to replicate due to the relatively low uptake of Windows Phone devices, while competition will also come from tablets running the ARM-optimised Windows RT.

So, to conclude, HP’s second attempt at a consumer tablet could well be more successful than its first. But the speed with which the market is evolving and the fiercely competitive nature of the non-iPad sector will mean a huge slice of luck will be needed for HP to become anything more than another minor player in the tablet wars.

Tim Ferguson

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members

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Justin Springham

Justin manages the editorial content for the Mobile World Live portal and award-winning Mobile World Live TV service. In the last few years Justin has launched and grown a portfolio of premier media products, which include the Mobile World Congress...

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