Monday, July 11, 2011

HP’s WebOS and TouchPad Launch

Jean-Louis Gassée on HP's disastrous TouchPad launch - from unrealistic expectations to promised perfection to repositioning and recalibration. HP’s Tortured WebOS Positioning:
Earlier this year, HP’s CEO made the claim WebOS would run on “100 million” devices. To quote the ZDNet article: “Although that 100 million figure sounds crazy it should be noted that HP shipped more than 52 million printers in 2010 and 64 million PCs. Tablets and smartphones are gravy.”

On PCs, as discussed in the March 13th Monday Note, the idea, an old one, is to have a “mini-OS” that’ll boot much faster than Windows so you can quickly check your webmail or your Facebook page. Printers would get better a nicer touch-UI. All this leading to grand statements of a boon for application developers: 100 million devices! Write Once, Run Everywhere! Neat theory, unclean reality. Just take a look at applications written for smartphones when playing on a tablet. iPhone apps do run, technically, on an iPad. And developers prefer rewriting those to better use the full screen. And what about code written for a Pre smartphone running in a printer, or a PC laptop using WebOS in a “quick-boot” arrangement?

We even hear rumors HP might do a Windows 8 tablet after all. No warranties expressed or implied.

In any event, this is a sad display of a once and still mighty company badly messing up its WebOS and TouchPad messages.

The reality is simpler — and harder: HP decided to enter the smartphone/tablet fray. It thus competes with Android and iOS. The consumerization of IT renders the “enterprise-only” pivot null and void. In this new world, Google and Apple wage an ecosystem war: devices + apps + distribution. Add marketing, if you want, but Word Of Mouth is still more potent than ad dollars. Or merely reinforces it.

This is the war HP is in. Bragging, pivoting or denying will only hurt.

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