After HP shifted around some upper management associated with its big investment in webOS, the speculation went wild that this was mostly due to the less than stellar response to the HP TouchPad. HP of course denies this (as they have to) and is now in the middle of a full court press on the PR circuit to try and get its own story out. There have been several interviews with both John Rubenstiien, who used to be in charge of webOS but was promoted upstairs, and Stephen DeWitt who now has that job.
This interview with Josh Topolsky of This Is My Next… is worth a read for several reasons. First, it shows that HP is trying to control the game. Second, it demonstrates that HP did let things go off the rails a bit, evidenced by some of the testiness in the answers to some pointed questions. Third, it looks like HP has a lot of work to do.
The perfect example of all three is what I see as silly and ineffective spin around the launch/soft launch issue. HP is trying to say that the July 1 release was not the real launch, instead saying this Monday the 17th when the advertising campaign kicks in will be the real deal. July 1 was a soft launch according to them brought on by exuberant demand and its desire to get the product into thought leaders hands. I’m sorry, I’m not buying that for several reasons. First, you don’t subject your product to reviews if you aren’t ready to go full steam ahead. That’s too great a risk to take. Second, most advertising campaigns don’t kick in full force until after the launch anyway. You want the chance to add all that wonderful press from the glowing reviews. HP got caught doing what most companies do with negative reviews by cherry picking quotes that sounded good. It’s an age old practice, but one you can’t get away with in this Internet age. Third, when asked point blank in the interview if the Over the Air update that has been talked about so much will be ready on the 17th, HP says it won’t. Advertising campaigns and reps on sales floor are only one component of a successful PR and marketing strategy, but you can bet that we’ll see some of those less than stellar reviews recycled next week. Again, HP has built itself a trap here. And last, HP’s messaging has been all over the place since the TouchPad launched and the negative press rolled in with talk of this being targeted at the Enterprise rather than consumers, even in the face of a consumer facing campaign about to roll out. Letting the info slip that there is newer model coming (regardless of when) that has a faster processor was also a bad move given that universally the original TouchPad has been labeled as sluggish.
I don’t envy the folks at HP. They’ve got a tough job ahead of them to correct what looks and sounds like problems of their own making. Here’s hoping they can somehow pull it off.