Hewlett Packard isn't aiming to dethrone Apple in the consumer tablet space, but is instead promoting the recently released TouchPad as a business solution for the enterprise market.
That's according to Richard Kerris, HP’s vice president of worldwide developer relations, who last week told the Apple enthusiast blog The Loop that the TouchPad will not go head-to-head with the iPad.
“We think there’s a better opportunity for us to go after the enterprise space and those consumers that use PCs,” Kerris told The Loop. “This market is in its infancy and there is plenty of room for both of us to grow.”
This comment stands in direct opposition to a comment that Eric Cador, senior vice president of HP's Personal Systems Group -- Europe, Middle East and Africa, made at a conference in May, when he said that HP would become the leader in the tablet market.
"In the PC world, with fewer ways of differentiating HP's products from our competitors, we became number one; in the tablet world we're going to become better than number one. We call it number one plus," Cador said at the event.
HP is relying on the strength of its channel to position the TouchPad as part of the solution set for enterprise and SMB customers. As part of this focus, the company is training channel partners on how to promote the tablet within their larger product offering.
John Convery, executive vice president of vendor relations and marketing at Denali Advanced Integration, a Redmond, Wash.-based solution provider and long-time HP partner, sees the channel as a major competitive advantage for HP. "We talk about the value from a customer perspective, so when a new product like a TouchPad comes in we're able to tell that story from the customer's converged infrastructure perspective," he said.
HP and Apple are the only companies that currently offer a mobile device portfolio that encompasses hardware and software. But HP believes that tablets will be channel driven and that this will give it an advantage over Apple in the long run.
"Apple's relationship with partners is transactional, completely. Apple doesn’t have an inclusive philosophy of partner capabilities, and that's just absurd," Stephen DeWitt, senior vice president of HP's Americas Solution Partners Organization, said in March at the Americas Partner Conference.
Michael Oh, president of Boston-based Apple reseller Tech Superpowers, says it remains to be seen if HP can deliver on its plans for the TouchPad.
"It is an advantage that HP has a lot of exposure in SMB with their peripherals, so they can probably make it a little easier to go from the tablet to the printer, for example. But that only goes so far and it will be interesting to see if they can take that theoretical advantage into the business," Oh said. "I'm skeptical that it is going to be as seamless as they are touting it to be, but we'll see."
While HP tries to position itself as the tablet of choice for businesses, Apple is making progress in the enterprise space as well. According to an April survey commissioned by cloud computing and mobility solution provider Model Metrics, 78 percent of respondents plan to have tablets officially deployed by the end of 2013. Of those who will deploy tablets, 83 percent expect to deploy Apple iPads, according to the study.
In light of these figures, HP's view that tablets are being driven by the channel is largely unproven, Oh said. "The iPad got into businesses because people who were in businesses bought them, not because of the channel. The channel didn't even know what tablet opportunities existed 18 months ago," said Oh.
This consumerization of IT, or the movement of products and services from the consumer market to the business market, is fundamentally changing the way that companies manage their technology, and this is another area in which HP is playing up its enterprise experience.
"It is a real problem for companies to determine how much access to give and to whom," said Mont Phelps, the CEO of NWN, an HP enterprise partner headquartered in Waltham, Mass. "This is a huge transition, and it's not so much about the tablet itself, but rather how the tablet addresses how work is going to be done, where it is going to be done and who is going to do it."
HP is betting that the channel can help businesses answer these questions, and in doing so, drive demand for tablets. And HP partners agree that ceding the consumer space to Apple for the time being is the correct strategy.
"If you go spec for spec, there is a common crossover between the TouchPad and the iPad," said Convery. "But if you look at the bigger strategy and where the tablet lies in the product mix, I come down on the side of Hewlett Packard for business."