Todd Bradley, the head of Hewlett-Packard's Printing and Personal Systems division, doesn't sound like he's planning to rush out to his nearest Microsoft retail store to buy the Surface RT tablet.
In an interview with IDG Enterprise published Thursday, Bradley says HP, which is planning to launch its Windows 8 ElitePad tablet in January, isn't threatened by Microsoft's entry to tablet hardware.
"I'd hardly call Surface competition," Bradley told IDG. "One, [Surface has] very limited distribution. It tends to be slow and a little kludgey as you use it."
Bradley also described the Surface tablet -- which starts at $499 for the 32-GB Windows RT model -- as "expensive." Microsoft is also expected to release a business-focused version called Surface Pro in January priced in the $1,000 range.
HP hasn't yet announced pricing for its ElitePad but has made it clear the device will be targeted at enterprises and will be easier to deploy and manage than Apple's iPad. HP says the ElitePad will also feature "military-grade durability" and stronger security than what the iPad offers.
HP isn't planning on rolling out a consumer tablet until next year, Bradley told IDG Enterprise. In the meantime, HP is touting its Envy x2, an $850 Windows 8-based convertible notebook that began shipping this week, as a consumer tablet.
Deron Kershaw, an analyst at research firm Gap Intelligence, San Diego, Calif., agrees with Bradley's assessment of Surface and says Microsoft is taking a big risk by releasing its own tablet.
"We expect Surface to see limited adoption, especially in the enterprise space. That leaves room for business-focused tablets, not just from HP, but also Dell and Lenovo," Kershaw told CRN. "These hardware vendors are much more trusted by IT managers and should be able to leverage their existing relationships with mid- to large-sized companies to earn sales, while Microsoft could struggle."
Andrew Brust, CEO of Microsoft analyst firm Blue Badge Insights, based in New York City, describes Bradley's comments as "both blustery and accurate".
"The Surface does indeed have limited distribution -- that's by design, though I do see it as a self-defeating attempt by Microsoft at being a player while still deferring to OEM partners," Brust told CRN. "That’s a strategy that is meant to be balanced, but I find it to be conflicted."
Bradley's comments are more pointed than those that John Solomon, senior vice president of Americas sales for HP's PPS division, made in August during an interview with CRN.
Asked at the time for comment on Surface, Solomon characterized Microsoft's entry to tablets as a welcome development.
"I believe Microsoft was basically making a leadership statement and showing what's possible in the tablet space," Solomon told CRN in August. "Our relationship has not changed at all due to Microsoft's announcement. In fact, I applaud it -- I think it's great that they are getting out in front and [showing] what's possible."
HP's first foray into tablets with WebOS and the TouchPad didn't work out, but the jury is still out on whether the "enterprise tablet" market is as large as HP thinks it is.
PUBLISHED NOV. 15, 2012