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Still, the move to kill off TouchPad caught some in the channel off-guard.
Geoffrey Lilien, CEO of Lilien Systems, a Larkspur, Calif.-based solution provider and HP partner, said he is surprised at HP's decision to drop the TouchPad.
"I'm really, really surprised considering how hard they have been talking about the product," Lilien said. "At APC (HP's Americas Partner Conference), mobility and the TouchPad were the big topics. I guess I won't be migrating off my iPad to a TouchPad any time soon."
And word of HP's decision comes one day after some channel players told CRN Wednesday that TouchPad sales have been in line with their expectations. "Commercial sell-through has met our expectations thus far," David Dennis, senior vice president of product management at Synnex said Wednesday in an email. Synnex ahead of the launch of HP’s tablet had said it expected to see strong uptake of the TouchPad.
Synnex was not alone in its optimism.
"It's early days, but we are pleased by the traction we have gotten in customer engagements and assessments," said Kristin Rogers, executive vice president of sales and marketing at PC Mall, a Torrance, Calif.-based partner. "Our focus is largely on getting evangelists internally (we have deployed over 50 internally across out company), working on training the sales force on why WebOS makes sense in the enterprise.
"While we are thrilled by HP’s pricing moves and advertising, and have a lot of activity in demand generation ourselves for small business and consumer – and while results have been just ok, we are not concerned and believe it will take a little time to get traction, and get HP above the noise level," said Rogers.
HP has often pointed to its channel as a competitive differentiator from the likes of Apple, and one of the main thrusts of its TouchPad message was that channel partners would be able to sell it as part of an enterprise mobility solution. HP has also been trying to get partners on board with WebOS development, and while the TouchPad news could dampen their enthusiasm, this option could still be open to the channel if HP can build WebOS critical mass by licensing it to third parties.
HP is reportedly looking to convince home appliance and car manufacturers to license WebOS for use in their products. In a Wall Street Journal interview earlier this week, Stephen DeWitt, senior vice president and general manager of its WebOS global business unit, reportedly said there's an "enormous amount of interest" in WebOS but didn't identify the companies involved.
DeWitt has also previously alluded to an HP strategy for WebOS that extends far beyond tablets and smartphones.
"No one has ever had a playground of hundreds of millions of disparate devices to build applications on top. It's one thing to have a smartphone, but what about applications that run on all sorts of different things that create experiences that we haven't even envisioned yet?" DeWitt said. "What's most important for HP is to inspire the innovation we know is possible across the universe of devices that we can impact."
ROB WRIGHT, ANDREW R. HICKEY and JOSEPH F. KOVAR contributed to this story