How the HP Tablet Could Conquer the Apple iPad

Industry opinion favors the iPad, yet HP’s tablet could be a contender on price and display, among other factors.
I think if you were to poll people on whether the HP Tablet or Apple iPad will be most successful, the majority would likely guess Apple, and the odds would favor this result.

However, a few might remember that it was only HP that scared Apple over the iPod and forced Steve Jobs to trick then CEO Carly Fiorina into licensing the iPod (something they have never done before or since) in order to successfully abort the one product that frightened him. This suggests that HP could surprise Apple. And the iPad clearly has a number of exposures, much like the iPod and iPhone did.

Of course, while the iPod and iPhone had issues, no one really took advantage of them, including HP (whose phones weren’t really even players). So this is “HP could,” not yet predicting “HP will.”

Technically

Apple, by using their own ARM version, eliminating multi-tasking and a video camera, and using an LCD technology that is considered near obsolete for devices that will be used outside, has provided a number areas where another product could outperform it.

We’ve watched much larger companies like Intel and AMD struggle with new processor designs over the years, and Apple’s is a new ARM version. With the release date of the product slipping and this being the only truly new technology in it, it’s possible there may be a problem with this part.

Simply by using an off-the-shelf product HP could have a more reliable manufacturing process and more reliable product. In addition, Marvell with their Armada line can provide Intel-like capability; Qualcomm has the most popular technology bundle; and NIVIDIA with Tegra the best graphics performance with ARM. HP is using Intel Atom, however, and Intel has the best compatibility with critical technologies like Flash.

In addition, by using ARM, they had to make a hard choice with regard to multi-tasking. To preserve performance they felt they had to turn it off and it is likely people will want to run multiple applications at the same time. Any of the other ARM providers and Intel likely all do better with multi-tasking. And Android and Windows Phone Series devices that use them have multi-tasking turned on (though Microsoft is limiting it to critical applications to preserver performance). Intel has never turned it off.

The display technology that HP is using isn’t disclosed. But the gold standard for tablets is currently the Notion Ink Adam, which outperforms in virtually every conceivable way and showcases best that HP could build a vastly more capable device.

Marketing

Apple leads the segment in marketing; however the only company that has come close is HP with their PC Personal campaign.

Most don’t realize that this campaign used a level of creativity that even Apple has never matched. This was the result of David Roman, who is ex-Apple, and who has often demonstrated he can match Apple with a fraction of Apple’s budget. For the personal campaign, rather than paying the celebrities he let them pick how HP spent its philanthropy budget and, in exchange for their support, HP aggressively supported their favorite charity. HP was going to spend the money on philanthropy anyway, the causes were consistent with those HP typically funded, and the celebrity and HP shared the credit. The result was a multi-million dollar campaign that didn’t cost his division that much.

If David and his team are given the budget and freedom to build a campaign around the HP tablet they have demonstrated they are capable of outdoing Apple. Of course being capable of doing something and actually doing it are two different things. But at least HP is capable, while most others are not.

Adobe War

I personally think it was silly for Apple to bring out a new product in an area (tablets) that hasn’t done very well and to use the device to declare war on Adobe. Flash remains one of the most critical technologies on the web and it is used for everything from video and web games to forms.

For instance I made an online purchase last weekend and had to download the latest version of Flash to complete the transaction. I couldn’t have even done the transaction with the iPad, given its lack of Flash support.

HP is already embracing Adobe and this could provide a massive differentiator for those who really want the uncompromised experience that Steve Jobs promised with the iPad but may not get.

Back End

This is where HP will likely struggle the most. They aren’t known for doing a great job with back end services, even though they sell servers, networking equipment, and software that makes these services work. However, Amazon, Microsoft, Rhapsody, OnLive, Hulu and others are putting together services that initially (or eventually) can collectively exceed what iTunes alone can do.

If HP can aggregate and provide an easy interface into a collection of these services they could, on paper, exceed the initial capabilities of the iPad. But work would need to be done on the user experience because just a collection of these services likely wouldn’t be good enough.

Price

Apple maintains one of the highest margins in the segment for good reason. They provide a better experience and out-market every other vendor. Yet this is a tight market with regard to financials and people buy on value. The iPad is costing, at the high end, substantially more than a $350 netbook, suggesting HP can undercut Apple’s price significantly and still have healthy margins. Better and cheaper would be very powerful in this market.

Wrapping Up

Like the iPod and the iPhone were, initially the iPad has some critical shortcomings. Other products like the Notion Ink Adam, based on NVIDIA Tegra and using a Pixel Qi advanced screen, have demonstrated you can build a better iPad. However, it has been a long time since simply building a better hardware product can beat Apple; you have to build a better solution.

That solution includes hardware, marketing, price, and most important, back end services. HP is one of the few vendors who has ever scared Steve Jobs and one of the many that have been tricked by him. You’d think they’d want some payback. We’ll see in a few months if they are up to getting it. Hope so, Apple constantly kicking everyone else’s butt gets boring after awhile.




Tags: Apple iPad, tablet, HP, tablet computer, HP Tablet


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