HP makes Google Android look even more creaky (and RIM, Nokia, Microsoft not in the game)

Jon Rubenstein introduces new HP TouchPad

HP’s Jon Rubenstein just showed off the HP TouchPad.

I’m so glad that I told my readers to wait before they bought a tablet until at least today.

What did HP just do?

1. Showed it can bring some innovations (especially in power charging and multitasking) that Apple hasn’t yet shipped.

2. Totally made the other, non-Apple, players on the board look lame.

3. Further weakened Microsoft’s stance in the marketplace. If you told me 10 years ago that HP would introduce a major new consumer product that’s not based on Windows I would have said you are totally crazy.

4. Made a major Apple fan (me) think twice about buying another iPad.

5. Helped keep Adobe Flash relevant. The movie they showed in Flash and games makes Apple’s anti-Flash stance look lamer than when just Google was pointing that out.

6. Showed off how to compete with Apple: have better cross-app communication. They showed how you could search or tweet all from one interface, which is quite nice.

So, where does the HP effort fall short?

1. Not many apps. That’s one reason it’s going to be hard to rip me away from the Apple ecosystem (I’ve now spent about $300 on apps). Plus, most new cool apps are coming out on iPad, not on Android or HP or RIM.

2. They are making us wait until summer to get one, with wifi, or later with 3G. In that time it’s expected that Apple will have iPad 2 out and we haven’t yet seen how Apple will refresh its OS to add some of the capabilities.

3. As of this moment they haven’t announced a price. If it’s less than $500 it will be a sizable winner, if more, we’ll quickly forget it like we are forgetting about the Motorola Xoom. I’ll update this post as soon as they introduce the price (within seconds).

Short? HP has a winner that other players MUST consider now. That is a major winner and, so, we must name this man a genius:

One on One with Phil McKinney

Who is he? Phil McKinney, HP’s CTO. He’s the one who spent three years building his own tablet, but decided it wasn’t good enough, so went and bought Palm.

UPDATE: I just interviewed Phil after the demos were done. He gave me some details behind HP’s purchase of Palm and plans to use Palm’s WebOS in other, laptop devices.

That looked like a strange decision at the time, but look at what it did for HP:

1. Put it on the innovator’s table.
2. Got it out from under Microsoft’s thumb.
3. Made HP cool again and made it something that RIM, Google, and Nokia needs to pay attention to (just when they thought they had figured out the game they were going to have to play in 2011).

Why do I say RIM isn’t in the game? They weren’t even the coolest tablet at CES (Motorola Xoom won that title) and app developers just aren’t taking them seriously. At least with HP’s effort they are betting big time on web apps, and their developer tools are easy to develop for and, even, loved by developers who have tried them. Microsoft? Sorry, not in the game at all. Neither is Nokia.

Congrats Phil and Jon. I can’t wait to get my hands on one.


      1. Given all the brouhaha about various CEOs (Oracle, Hurd etc. etc.) I think it would be ok to mention Apotheker in the post itself – at least some of this happened on his watch.
        Generally I’m allergic to CEO celebrity treatment but in this particular case I’d say Apotheker merits mention.

    1. Why does he deserve any credit? This product has obviously been under development since before he arrived at HP. Also, he said just last week that HP will ship new products within days of their announcement, which is obviously not happening. Is he a liar, or already out of touch with the company’s highest profile new products?

      1. Well… I don’t think it’s a critical issue. Just saying – very often CEOs get all the credit for everything (which is BS as well). But IMHO Apotheker has been in there long enough to share in this. As I said “some of this” happened on his watch. But also I thought the whole Hurd-HP-Oracle coverage was totally soap opera BS and it would be ok for media (e.g. bloggers) to put a perspective on Apotheker outside of that.

  1. Only problem I have is the long release time frame. WebOS was always a fine mobile OS but it took too long to come to market, and it was U.S only.

    By the time this is released Apple will likely have released the iPad 2 and cemented their spot on top of the tablet sales figures, and Honeycomb will give Google a firm #2 ranking. With all of HP’s resources, you would think they could push out these releases sooner?

    As I saw in a tweet, it feels like CES 2009 all over again!

    1. I imagine the TouchPad and iPad2 will be released at almost exactly the same time. I think you’ll see HP seriously undercut the pricing of the iPad with some bundling with the Pre3. If you watch how much those two devices differentiate themselves by working together, I imagine we’ll see some sort of bundling of the two devices for both At&t and Verizon that makes the purchase a really compelling buy.

  2. Only problem I have is the long release time frame. WebOS was always a fine mobile OS but it took too long to come to market, and it was U.S only.

    By the time this is released Apple will likely have released the iPad 2 and cemented their spot on top of the tablet sales figures, and Honeycomb will give Google a firm #2 ranking. With all of HP’s resources, you would think they could push out these releases sooner?

    As I saw in a tweet, it feels like CES 2009 all over again!

  3. I’m guessing $800ish on price. I want to believe but every other company has decided that the best way to take on the market leader is to charge hundreds of dollars more. I’d love HP to buck that trend.

  4. As a current Pre owner, I am torn. I have mentally committed to the iPhone 5 on Verizon. I have disdain for the performance of my Pre, yet like many aspects of usability like Synergy and integrated messaging. Yet I don’t believe that HP, even with boatloads of cash, can bring the developers. At best they may move up to third behind iOS and Android. MSFT couldn’t do it with WP7.

    And not for nothing, but why is the CTO still employed? 3 years and no good tablet and his only action was to pay $1.6B for a company on the precipice of collapse as a standalone firm? I’m just sayin’.

    1. HP won’t bring the developers, HP will bring the users, then the developers will come along. All they have to do is make a call to their enterprise clients and start bundling phones with computers and all of a sudden you have scale. Just wait, there will be plenty of apps.

  5. $499 is the tablet benchmark entry price. Above that (can you hear me now Moto?) is a FAIL.

    That price point gets you in the game. You still need compelling apps, a well oiled supply chain, no hassle payments safe app store, regular free OS updates, etc., etc., etc.

    Good luck HP!


    1. In fairness to Moto, it’s difficult to argue that they are aiming for “entry”. It’s the usual high-end Android spec device, that comes out every major OS revision. Early adaptors cough up for it and then other manufacturers fill the space with cheaper variations on a theme.

    1. They have been leading their customers on for years now, why would they stop all the sudden?

      Just a few more weeks… by a few we mean 6 and by weeks we mean months.

  6. “Helped keep Adobe Flash relevant. The movie they showed in Flash and games makes Apple’s anti-Flash stance look lamer than when just Google was pointing that out.”

    All competitors to iPad are using Flash against Apple. The result will be that HTML5 is dead. We are stuck with Flash for the foreseeable future.

    1. Even MG Siegler from TechCrunch said that HTML5 is not good enough yet, though he said it for different reasons – to support the idea that native apps are still king.

  7. Like it, but summer is to far away as i’m concerned, it’s always the same with the stuff palm creates, it looks very nice, but always delivered to late by summer the market is so crowded with tablets it happened with the pre and seems to be happening again with the tablets.

  8. Some good pts from Scobleizer ( who evidently gets starry eyed fast ) and kudos to HP who perhaps can secure the #3 spot because let’s get real GOOG and AAPL will innovate faster and increase market dominance as top 2 players

  9. They absolutely should have pre-empted the iPad 2 release and used the impulse buy factor to get people on board early. HP missed the ball by not having these devices ready to order/ship within weeks (if not days) of this announcement.

    They got he ball rolling, but it’s not rolling down hill.

  10. looks interesting but since there are few apps, it doesn’t ship for ~6 months and we don’t know what it costs, isn’t it a bit early to call it a ‘major winner’?

    1. Until you can walk into a gadget shoppe and take one home, it is at best a promise; at worse vapourware.

      Like Dell, RIM, and the various Android tablets du jour at CES, the announcements are meant to freeze the market. Too bad for them iPad 1 is here now, and iPad 2 is upon us.

    1. I disagree. HP has an opportunity to create an entire WebOS ecosystem with hardware that they create alone–very similar to what Apple has done with iOS. If HP can get developers on board, they’re suddenly a very formidable opponent.

      HP is in it for the same reason Apple is. They aren’t looking to put WebOS on as many devices as possible. They’re looking to sell hardware.

  11. Flash – Remember, Apple had to deal with Flash on mobiles a long time ago – Chips are faster now hence HP can show Flash – Not sure Apple would have made a different decision though even if the chips back then could have handled it.

  12. Generally, I agree with your assessment of the positive nature of the features. But pricing and availability kills this dead. I think this is too late. Just like the original Pre. The Pre looked pretty good when introduced at $299 up against the $399 iPhone 3G, but then Pre shipped months and months later, and like a week after that, iPhone 3GS was $199 and iPhone 3G was $99 and Pre was toast.

    Right now, at $399 for 16GB, a TouchPad maybe looks practical. You have to give up a lot, but you get into the game for $399. But by the time TouchPad ships, we could very well see a dual core 32GB iPad 2 at $499, and original iPads with 16GB at $399, or even $349. Then, even at $299, you are asking me to give up a lot to save $50 compared to iPad: 500,000 apps including 100,000 full-size apps, video editing, multichannel audio recording, iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, Apple Store and Genius Bar, the Apple brand and quality hardware.

    Maybe I’m wrong and iPad doesn’t go under $499, but iPhone and iPod pricing suggests otherwise. Apple’s biggest advantage in mobile is economies of scale (the opposite of PC’s), so they can win any price war. In 1992, Steve Jobs said that in the late 80′s, Apple should have driven down the price of Macs to prevent cloners getting any air under there, and then he proved himself right by coming back to Apple and doing a $399 iPod that within 2 years was a $199 iPod mini then shortly after that a $149 iPod nano, and then a $499-$399-$199-$99-$49 iPhone. It seems like iPad, with it’s

    1. [cut off from above message:]

      … greater reliance on apps and even earlier place in the market is an even better candidate for driving the price down aggressively. So where is the price point for TouchPad? Can HP hit $299? Maybe they have to, and maybe that is not even cheap enough.

    2. +1. I was doing similar math in a comment on the next post… If HP snoozes any further, and doesn’t price this ultra-aggressively (including as a loss leader), they can pack in that entire cute strategy… will they? Can they?

  13. HP is definitely positioning itself as a viable competitor in the tablet arena but not taking advantage of jumping ahead of the iPad 2 and iPhone 5 might just have killed their opportunity for taking a little market share. I wish them luck. It’s always nice to see the rule of 3 take place and give the tech consumer great choices.

    As the WSJ points out, the iPad 2 will have the same resolution, sounds like it’ll be almost neck and neck with the TouchPad. It’s going to be an awesome summer.

  14. Awesome post, you could not have hit the nail on its head better with your reference to Microsoft, Nokia, and RIM. This trio will scramble for years to come, no doubt.

    1. I agree. As cool as WebOS is, and as big as HP is, they won’t have enough power to grow the ecosystem around it by themselves. Not one company has the power to do this now besides Apple who started both these product categories, so now benefit from ecosystem momentum (although Android might overshadow it in the long run). HP can’t do it, RIM can’t do it, and even Nokia can’t do it alone. If they hope to remain relevant against Android and iOS, they need to buddy up and share an OS – the more the better.

      1. I know everything about the Slate. How many enterprises has it been sold to,
        when it is still on 8-weeks back order for the few consumers in the US who
        ordered it? It is not available outside the US or in any computer shops. It
        can only be ordered on HP’s website, and only with an 8-week delay because
        enough units were not manufactured. For a device hyped as the first iPad
        killer- hyped by Phil- this is a disgrace. That’s what I was hoping Robert
        would ask him about.

  15. The only thing the HP presentation did is show what a junk abomination Apple’s “multitasking” truly is. Both Honeycomb and WebOS beat the hell out of Apple in the OS department. For iPad 2 to even be in the running, Apple would have to completely redesign iOS. Cause currently both Honeycomb and WebOS have passed Apple by and is making iOS look like a DOS machine.

    1. Only us geeks worry about multi-tasking — Haven’t met an iPad/iPhone user (consumer) even think about it, say nothing of bitching. Most are single-task oriented.

      1. “Only us geeks worry about multi-tasking…”

        This is an example of the “will someone please think of the grandmas” retort.

        I’m all for grandmas (and grandpas) having tech that makes sense to them, but I remember when tech blogs were about tech, and not so much about market analysis.

      1. Robert is genuinely a very nice fellow, and I appreciate how accessible he makes himself.

        He rebuked me the other day on FF for suggesting that Honeycomb is more a “tablet” os than the iPad version of iOS. And he’s become almost MG Siegler in his partisan Apple pimping.

        He’s as much interested in what’s likely to be popular as what’s actually good — he conflates the two. Rather doubt he — if he scrolled down this far — got the Gnome vs. KDE analogy. Pretty sure he doesn’t run any Linux distros on a regular basis. He’s not especially geeky.

        But his is a market more than a tech analysis, generally.

        1. True. By the way, popularity drives developers, which brings apps. Flipboard, for instance, is only available on iPad. So is Rupert Murdoch’s new app. So is Oprah’s new app. And on and on and on and on.

          What you “geeky” people don’t seem to learn, despite years of being taught this lesson, is that popularity makes markets and having a “geekier” OS like Linux, no matter what the distro is, doesn’t bring you many apps.

          I’ll stick with my populist approach, thank you very much.

          1. And then there’s that whole “interwebs” thing. Chrome — short of a couple Flash peculiarities and some serious Silverlight DRM issues (Netflix) — works just fine on Linux.

  16. I disagree about BB. The Playbook looks awesome and if the Android compatibility bears out then it will be a force, even if it doesn’t you can’t discount the millions of BB corporate users who will love a tablet that works well with their handheld. And it’s COOL. Have you seen that thing? It can cut through 1080p video and AngryBirds at the same time! I’ve yet to see any tablet with that performance and they’ve committed to bringing it to market for less than $500.

    Lastly, as a general comment on the tablet marketplace, who needs apps on a 10in screen anyway? Games? Sure. But the only apps I need on a tablet are media consumption. The screen is big enough that all websites work well without the need for an app and if I have the real web, why do I need an app? I don’t really, except for the things that I use an app on the desktop for like Twitter or something. Tablets+Apps are overrated.

    1. I totally agree. The RIM BlackBerry PlayBook looks awesome.
      Technically it is amazing. The OS is very very powerful.
      And yes at the CES it was the coolest tablet!

        1. If I’m predisposed to any of these tablet OSes, it’s Honeycomb, but we should probably wait for a bit before we completely discount PlayBook.

          On the other hand, I’ve actually used an iPad, and, meh. Things with a screen that big should be a bit more like a “computer” than the iPad is. A bit less like a smartphone.

    2. I REALLY hope HP sues the pants off of RIM for stealing the multitasking cards interface. Didn’t even try to add their own flavor – just straight-up ripped it off

  17. As an avid Android fan i’ve always thought WebOS was more polished and intriguing. The problems were a lack of diversity in the form factor (i think the pre and pixi are fugly), a lack of apps, and the slow pace compared to Android (especially since they are both still trying to catch Apple.) A summer release just means Im going with a Xoom or iPad 2. *sigh*

  18. ok they catch up the Ipad but they did not catch up the ipad 2 or even android … they may face the same palm problem… they have one of the best os out there but it is not enough… support for developer was horrible on palm… let see how they will fix that with the new palm ( opps HP)

  19. Gawd, all this new tablets and their associated OSes brings backs memories of a time back in the 80′s when we actually had options and variety in the home computer/personal computer space and things were so much more interesting/fun, before MS bulldozed their way in and killed off the competitors. It’s like the time we used to login to BBSes (using dialup modems) and argue about the relative merits of the Amiga, Atari ST, IBM PCjr, Ti, Amstrad, Archimedes, Dragon, Radio Shack CoCo, Sord, Tomy, CP/M, OS9, Digital Research GEM, GEOS, etc.

    The post-PC era is going to be a lot like the pre-PC era. When innovation triumphed, competitors abound and customers had options. I daresay the Wintel hegemony in the last 20+ years actually killed off innovations in OSes, UI, computing form factors, quirky alternative networking technologies, interface options, etc. Now that Apple, various flavours of Linux and Google have effectively put a damper on Wintel’s growth momentum and started the post-PC era, let true innovation freedom ring again…

  20. “Microsoft not in the game”

    Another tech blogger who likes to blog about consumer electronics but evidently did not attend CES 2011.

    Microsoft isn’t a tablet maker or a tablet vendor, but there is a diverse range of superb tablets running Windows 7. For example, the Asus Eee Slate, the most powerful tablet available — by far! And there is already talk of Windows 8 tablets within key players like Intel.

    Microsoft is set-up to dominate tablets, as soon as it makes business sense to do so:-

  21. Here’s the truth about all this:

    1. HP made an ARM Android Powered Compaq Airlife Laptop with 10.1″ touch screen a year ago, but for some business reason, HP decided not to release this product outside of Spain: http://armdevices.net/2010/02/17/hp-compaq-airlife-100-android-laptop-at-mobile-world-congress-2010/

    2. HP will give up on WebOS and they will make Android devices, just like everyone else. The UI features of these OS are just about useless compared to the importance of the ecosystem. WebOS is dead, nobody wants to develop for it and nobody except HP wants to manufacture it. Just give it up! $1.2 Billion is small change for HP, just consider it that you bought some expensive Palm engineers to help you improve your future Android devices.

    3. Android 2.2 Tablets are BETTER than iOS on iPad. Stop all the BS please. Apple did nearly no UI customizations to port iOS for tablets, except Google’s Gmail for iPad, and few other upscaled apps, Android 1.6 SDK actually supported 800×480 medium density (which means 5″ and above nearly a year before the ipad even came out!), which means many more Android apps scale better on tablets than iOS apps scale on the iPad. Everyone needs to stop spreading the Apple fanboy FUD about Android not being good enough for Tablets. The only reason Android 2.2 tablets sold less than iPad is a marketing/distribution issue, absolutely nothing to do with consumer adoption or “what the consumers prefer”.

    4. Consumers care about value for money, nothing else. Consumers don’t care what OS is on the device, THEY DONT. The Archos 101 Internet Tablet is sold below $299, it’s a 10.1″ Android tablet with more power and more features compared to the iPad. The result is that for whatever store that has the Archos tablets in stock, nearly 100% of consumers will choose the Archos over the iPad. They want to save about 40% of their money, duh. On top of that, the Archos has HDMI output, Webcam, USB host, full video codecs support, a kick-stand, 480 grams vs the iPad/HPtouchpad 700 grams, thinner design, all those things matter.

    5. Anyways, fanboys can talk and talk about which UI elements are better here or there. It basically doesn’t matter nearly as much as the ecosystem. The ecosystem is NOT only developer support (which Android has about as much as iOS), it is also very importantly the number of companies that are backing the platform. Android has about 100 very large companies manufacturers, carriers that are backing it fully. iOS has 1 company. RIM has 1 company. WebOS has 1 company. Those 1-company ecosystems are dead, end of story.

    1. I disagree with the last sentence in #3. It is a marketing issue, but Android isn’t giving people “what they prefer”. I think what people want is to not have a 3rd internet bill. The target audience already has internet at home and 3G on their phone. Apple was smart by making a WiFi only version, and HP is doing the same. I’m still waiting for the WiFi only Android version, but no one wants to make one. That’s keeping me from buying one.

      Also as far as Archos, stores are carrying them because they don’t think they’ll move. The Archos can have the all the specs it can have, but specs != quality. Stores want to make money and it’s the iPads that are selling the most.

      1. Archos tablets are WiFi only, and they can tether through WiFi and Bluetooth, and for example the Archos 70 Internet Tablet is sold below $269 at retail stores and online stores.

        I don’t know what you are trying to say about Archos, but the fact is they are getting sold instantly as soon as resellers have them in stock. Archos cannot keep up with the demand. In France for example, Archos has 22% of the tablet market share against 67% for Apple and only 4% for Samsung.

        Yes you are right, Samsung’s problem is they have been too expensive and only competing in the 3G enabled Tablet market, which for example for iPad is only a small part of their iPad sales. But that is a choice of Samsung, they prefer to make huge amounts of money per customer rather than lowering the price early with WiFi only models.

        Stores are not making much more per sale on an iPad even though it’s about double the price of an Archos, that is why stores actually prefer to sell cheaper Android tablets, if only someone like Archos can deliver enough stock cause they sell out very fast.

        Archos is a small 100-employee company, they cannot afford to manufacture enough to satisfy all the demand.

    2. Charbax: you live in an alternative universe from mine if you claim that iPad isn’t better than Android on tablets. Sorry. They aren’t even close to the same in usability and quality of apps.

      1. I live in the same universe. Samsung Tab is significantly better than the iPad in usability simply because Android is significantly more usable than iOS. Fliboard is definitely an excellent app. But I didn’t find too many notable apps on the iPad. I sold my iPad after months of disuse. Like almost every Apple product, it promises to deliver and then is gimped to near crippleware. The iPad is seriously limited device.

  22. A webOS tablet is exciting, but this doesn’t knock the Xoom or any Honeycomb tablet out of the league of greatness.

    The UI looks great, and so does the multi-tasking, integration of social networks & accounts, and the wirelss charging. Android 3 competes on all of that but the charging; the iPad competes only on the UI (I don’t think the tablet UI is that great for the iPad because I’m like many millions who don’t have an iPhone).

    Probably the most exciting feature of the webOS tablets, I think, is sharing stuff between a phone and a tablet (and a computer). Looks like webOS is gearing up to be the winner in this feature, but Android is getting there and the iPad can be a remote control for AppleTV, which is lame in comparison but at least on the same playing field. The BlackBerry Playbook seems like it’s the loser on that front.

    RIM and Android don’t look creaky with the webOS tablets — the iPad does. Because it’s the only one of all of them that won’t run flash, won’t multi-task, and doesn’t have widgets, etc. and is stuck with just screens of apps and a home button.

  23. I recall the same level of WebOS enthusiasm from you when the original Pre was launched. I also remember this fizzling away to nothing very quickly. If more developers don’t hop onto the WebOS bandwagon we’ll soon see Son of Fizzle, ’cause the device is useless without sophisticated apps. This is why I dropped WebOS (the most efficient, attractive and easy to use OS ever) for Android.

    I would love to see WebOS become successful, but its going to be a long time before the ecosystem catches up to iOS and Android devices. When it does I’ll own an HP tablet.