The Rise And Fall Of The HP TouchPad Tablet4:10 PM EST Mon. Aug. 22, 2011
HP tried to right the ship by offering a series of HP TouchPad price cuts earlier this month, and HP executives acknowledged in the company's third-quarter earnings that the tablets weren't selling anywhere near as well as HP had envisioned.
It's been a drama-filled six months for the HP TouchPad, which HP unveiled to great fanfare in February. Here CRN looks at the rise and fall of the TouchPad, complete with all the momentous developments that took place along the way.
In the run-up to HP's Feb. 9 launch of the TouchPad, Veer and Pre3, CEO Leo Apotheker expresses his belief that HP's footprint in the consumer and business markets is unique in the IT industry. In a foreshadowing of HP's competitive positioning, Apotheker also suggests that HP could give Apple a run for its money by paying more attention to product design.
"I hope one day people will say 'this is as cool as HP,' not 'as cool as Apple,'" Apotheker says in an interview BBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
HP unveils its first three WebOS hardware products -- the TouchPad, Veer and Pre3 -- offers a "summer" timeframe for launch but doesn't provide pricing information. As tech industry launch events go, this one generated an inordinate amount of unanswered questions.
At HP's Americas Partner Conference, Stephen DeWitt, then senior vice president of HP's Americas Solution Partners Organization, offers a glimpse of coming PartnerONE program benefits including market development funds, volume programs, big deal registration and practice development for partners selling WebOS products.
Then-channel chief Stephen DiFranco also reveals HP's plan to launch an Elite mobility program offering in November that would provide more substantial benefits for partners that meet higher level HP mobility partner requirements.
"We are going to help our partners develop mobility practices that include services like app development, mobility virtualization and mobility management," DiFranco says in a keynote at the event.
HP releases the WebOS 3.0 SDK, but only to developers in its Early Access program. HP's pitch to developers highlights the "seamless, secure and connected experience" it's building across smartphones, tablets, PCs, printers.
It wasn’t until after HP launched its new tablet platform that the company made the WebOS 3.0 SDK generally available to outside and third-party app developers.
At a press conference in Cannes, France, Eric Cador, senior vice president of HP's Personal Systems Group -- Europe, Middle East and Africa, claims that HP's success in the PC business will translate into dominance of the tablet space.
"In the PC world, with fewer ways of differentiating HP's products from our competitors, we became No. 1; in the tablet world we're going to become better than No. 1. We call it No. 1 plus," Cador said at the event.
In HP's third quarter earnings call in August, CFO Cathie Lesjak acknowledges that HP had more modest goals with WebOS. "Our intention was to solidify WebOS as a clear number two in the market, but we were unable to achieve our target," said Lesjak.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg at the D9 conference, Apotheker says WebOS is more than just an OS, but a potential industry shaping force. "This isn’t about taking Apple head-on. It’s about establishing credibility. Once we are the third alternative, it’s a marathon, not a sprint," Apotheker says at the event.
Apotheker also expresses regret at not being able to bring WebOS to market sooner and suggests that corporate headwinds may have slowed its progress to market. "I have tried to shelter WebOS from the bureaucracy,” Apotheker says in the D9 interview.
After months of sticking to its "summer" timeframe, HP reveals its intention to launch the TouchPad on July 1.
Later, after customers find it difficult to place HP TouchPad pre-orders due to technical glitches, HP officials claim that the July 1 date was actually a "soft launch", and that July 17 is the official TouchPad launch date.
Apotheker acknowledges that HP is meeting with mobile device makers to discuss possible avenues for WebOS licensing.
"We are talking to a number of companies," Apotheker says at an industry event in Beijing. He doesn't offer additional details, but Bloomberg reports that HP has held talks with Samsung about using WebOS in its smartphones.
Jon Rubinstein, senior vice president and general manager of HP’s Palm Global Business Unit, reportedly sends an email to employees aimed at counteracting negative early reviews of the HP TouchPad. Rubinstein notes that Mac OS X received some of the same scathing feedback from users after it launched.
HP shakes up its WebOS executive leadership, moving DeWitt, senior vice president and general manager for the Americas region of the Personal Systems Group, into the role of VP and GM of HP's new WebOS global business unit. Former HP channel chief Stephen DiFranco moves into DeWitt's role, and HP begins search for new channel chief.
Rubinstein, the technology visionary and driving force behind the HP TouchPad, assumes a product innovation role within the Personal Systems Group.
To capitalize on a hoped-for spike in back-to-school IT spending, HP unveils promotion that gives customers an instant $50 rebate when they buy an HP TouchPad, bringing price of the 16 GB model to $450 and the 32 GB model to $550. HP says $50 off promotion will end on Sept. 10.
Two days later, HP offers $100 off its 16GB and 32GB WebOS TouchPad tablets in a limited promotional offer that runs over the weekend from Aug. 5 to Aug. 7. A $100 Staples coupon also surfaces on Fatwallet.com, and the retail outlet allows customers to use it in conjunction with HP's discount to get a 16GB TouchPad for $299.
Hewlett-Packard decides to make permanent its $100 instant discount on the HP TouchPad. "HP continually evaluates pricing for its products and is pleased to permanently extend its back-to-school promotion on the HP TouchPad," a HP spokesperson says by way of explanation.
Frank Rauch, vice president of channel sales for HP's Enterprise Storage Server Networking (ESSN) division, gave away HP TouchPads to attendees of an XChange Tech Symposium. Rauch says HP sees TouchPads as drivers for IT connectivity and cloud computing business as tablets continue their invasion of the workplace.
AllThingsD.com reports slow TouchPad sales through Best Buy, which reportedly took delivery of 270,000 HP TouchPads but sold just 25,000. AllThingsD's sources also claim Best Buy wants HP to buy back the unsold TouchPads, and that HP is urging the retailer to be patient and wait for demand to materialize.
In a decision that shocks many HP channel partners, the company kills off the HP TouchPad just over six weeks after it begins shipping, and also discontinues its other WebOS hardware products, the Veer and Pre3 smartphones.
"The reality is that the TouchPad has not been gaining enough traction in the market," Apotheker says in HP's gloomy third-quarter earnings call.