Is HP Setting Themselves Up For Failure?

An article on All Things D covered HP’s Eric Cador expounding on their forthcoming tablet (probably the WebOS one), and how it will be vastly superior to the iPad, and in turn will unseat the iPad as the leading tablet. It sounds like HP may be falling into the same trap that RIM did with Playbook, assuming that superior hardware or some perceived advantage in the operating system will be enough to get people to move away from iPad. Right now, hardware specifications aren’t the top item on people’s list of what a tablet should have. The main issue, from what I can see, is about the ecosystem, which boils down to apps and content. Currently, the iPad is the leader in both ways. The hardware on the iPad, while not necessary the absolute best, is “good enough”. The price is also not a big deterrent at the moment.

There are two ways to unseat the iPad, from what I can see. The first is to provide a platform with a superior catalogue of apps and a better choice for content. When you look at the current maturity of the tablet market, content is an important part of what makes up the device’s attraction, and having “just as good as Apple” probably won’t be enough. The challenge, though, is that Apple has set a pretty high bar here. With an enormous number of apps, and several years of negotiations with labels and studios for content under their belt, a new entrant has their work cut out for them.

The second way involves time and patience, and waiting for the market to mature to the point where price sensitivity becomes more an important factor. This is happening in the smartphone market, where the cheaper Androids are scooping up marketshare. The initial early adopters cared less about price, but as those customers bought devices, companies like Apple, RIM and the Android handset makers have to appeal on other grounds.

I have a hint, though: the issue of hardware features and performance will probably never be a factor. As long as the phone has the requisite cameras, bluetooth and enough storage to be useful, along with processing power that’s “good enough”, then the device can compete. It’s about the ecosystem for the device and, as the market matures, price.

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