Why Didn’t Tablet Buyers Want to Touch the TouchPad?

When we learned that Best Buy couldn’t move the HP TouchPad we weren’t surprised, but today’s news that HP would discontinue the device and essentially pull out of the consumer slate tablet race did catch us off guard. As I began to think about it, I’m not really that surprised that the TouchPad didn’t get picked up by more consumers. Here is why:

Apple Marketing

Apple owns the consumer slate tablet market. Sure a few companies are still making convertible tablet PCs. We have even seen some really nice Android tablets. But none of those have even come close to being able to compete for the mind share of ordinary consumers.

HP TouchPad

I own an ASUS Eee Pad Transformer. When I take it out with me for work I always get asked one question. “Is that an iPad?” When I explain that it is a different kind of tablet running a totally different OS, sometimes they will ask to see it or look at it and then wonder out loud, “What can this do that the iPad can’t do?” I have a few answers, but the tone of the question is what really matters. The notion behind it is this: why would you not buy an iPad?

No matter what you think of Apple’s closed app ecosystem, or the lack of flash on iOS devices, you have to admit that Apple owns the mind share of the average consumer.

It’s All About the Apps

I’ve owned two pre-iPad era tablets and four post-iPad era tablets, including each of the two iPads. One thing I know: It is all about the apps. The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer and the ACER Iconia Tab A500 are great devices. As Android devices they have a fighting chance against the app king from Apple.

The HP TouchPad didn’t have app support. You couldn’t get all the apps that you could on Android tablets, let alone the iPad. With a slate consumer tablet, the device is best if it disappears and the apps shine. Look at Apple’s great marketing. They talk less about the battery life, pretty screen, or nice form factor. They usually highlight the apps and what you can do with them. You never hear them discussing megahertz or gigabytes. They play on the usefulness of their iPad, which comes from the apps.

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Price

After Apple whipped WebOS and Android in the slate tablet ring on marketing, they beat up Android and totally knocked WebOS out on apps. I’d say Android is stammering in the app round, but WebOS was picked up and thrown into the front row.

With those two rounds in hand, price is the only place that HP could compete. Sadly, they did too little too late. Sure they dropped the price to $399, but that was the price it should have been introduced at. Consumers know about the iPad thanks to the marketing. Only price might have swayed them to buy the “knock off” tablet, as many likely saw the TouchPad being.

Why didn’t HP introduce a $399 TouchPad to begin with? They might have believed their tablet was just as good. Price often promotes a perceived value. After all, most of us had fathers how hammered into us the adage: “You get what you pay for!” It could be that they just didn’t understand what consumers understand. If you can’t beat the leader on things like marketing or functionality due to apps, then price is your only weapon. Maybe the execs at HP didn’t get it.

Maybe. But I think the real reason for the high price is that HP simply couldn’t make a tablet that inexpensive. They believed that their name and retail partnerships were strong enough to compete outside of price, and at the same time, they just couldn’t get the components of a tablet at a cheap enough price to compete on, partly because Apple is buying up all those things.

In the end, if HP couldn’t compete on marketing, apps or price, what else could they compete on?

Comments

  1. Hontas Farmer says

    Just yesterday I actually bought and actually quite enjoyed a HP Touchpad.  I am the owner of a HP TouchSmart tm2t convertible tablet PC and held off thinking that these new tablets were mainly toys.  I found it to be quite nice to have, and as capable with web based applications as my PC.  

    I think that right now is probably the high point for Apple due to it’s apps and app store.  More an more apps are also available as HTML 5 web applications that run just fine in any web browser.  So relying on the “There’s an app for that” marketing will only carry them for another year at the most. Web based apps that are as good as native apps are coming to the tablet space and then the tablet itself becomes a commodity. 

    I am about done wiping the data from my touchpad and am about to return it. I don’t see any reason to get an android tablet when my android phone does all of the same things. 

  2. Hoya309 says

    Kevin’s right, its all about the marketing. The fact is, Apple has reached a whole segment of consumers that were previously technologically inept. They like shiny, simple, “cool” devices.  And Apple is all they know.  Trying to win over this crowd would be like getting a die hard fan to abandon his team with a sound, logical argument.  And this segment of consumers is much larger than the original tech enthusiast that looked past the logo and at the actual device.

  3. Hoya309 says

    Kevin’s right, its all about the marketing. The fact is, Apple has reached a whole segment of consumers that were previously technologically inept. They like shiny, simple, “cool” devices.  And Apple is all they know.  Trying to win over this crowd would be like getting a die hard fan to abandon his team with a sound, logical argument.  And this segment of consumers is much larger than the original tech enthusiast that looked past the logo and at the actual device.

    • Anonymous says

      I agree.  Apple’s biggest success isn’t as much the product as the way they marketed the product, and to whom.  Rather than focusing on what it could/couldn’t do, they focused on how simple it is to use.  And while many readers of these blogs are either techies, (or at least trying to keep up with technology) and understand the details of the tablets, most consumers do not.  they don’t care or even begin to understand the difference between 500Mhz and 1Ghz processors…and they don’t care; so long as it works.  And that is the market that Apple has tapped into.  Android and other OS’s will only gain greater traction if they can show consumers that there OS is easy to use.  Right now, Android tablets don’t appear to look simple (not for me, but the average user); maybe Microsoft will be able to succeed with Windows 8 using the simple Metro UI on a tablet.  But since the WP7 hasn’t gained much traction, that remains to be seen.

  4. Anonymous says

    What HP tablet? HP had a tablet? Honsetly there are so many of these things that I can’t get excited about any of them anymore.  I had an iPad for 27 days and kept having to get little addons to make it functional- a little carry case here, a matte screen protector there, a mini keyboard..the list goes on. I took it back and got a core i7 laptop on sale for about $100 more. I played portal 2 on it with the graphics maxed out. it was awesome.

    tablets = meh. HP tablet = wat?

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