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 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.
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.
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?