HP Says TouchPad Will Win Tablet Market

Apple's iPad will be challenged for the number one tablet position when HP introduces its TouchPad, which executives say will be "better than number one."
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HP's TouchPad tablet, based on its webOS platform, is primed to hit the market in the coming months. HP appears to be ramping up the hype machine, as its executives and partners are talking about it publicly more and more. Over the weekend, HP's European chief, Eric Cador, has some strong words for the company's competitors.

"In the PC world, with fewer ways of differentiating HP's products from our competitors, we became number one," he said. "In the tablet world we're going to become better than number one. We call it number one plus."

Number one plus? I'm not quite sure if HP is justly confident or highly delusional. I'll let you decide.

The TouchPad, first revealed in February, takes webOS to the next level and is aimed squarely at Apple's iPad. It matches the original iPad almost spec-for-spec when it comes to the hardware and at first glance appears to be a solid tablet computer. But HP has a long, long, long way to go if it wants to be "number one plus."

Apple has sold close to (if not more than) 20 million iPads since its debut in 2010, with the new iPad 2 racking up millions of sales during the first month. Nearly every other tablet has so far fizzled by comparison. Motorola has sold somewhere south of 250,000 Xooms, RIM has sold about 250,000 PlayBooks, and no one has any real idea how many Samsung Galaxy Tabs have been sold. The HTC Flyer just hit the market over the weekend, and the LG G-Slate has vanished from the tablet conversation.

What sort of impact can HP make in this market, and what is making it feel so good ahead of the TouchPad's launch? Its strength in both the enterprise and consumer markets, that's what.

"Only one company plays in both the consumer and business worlds," said Cador. "We tend to talk about technologies. But the way the user is going to look at tablets means it's about experience. The way corporate is going to look at it is to say that its employees, who are also consumers, have got to like it and it's got to be secure. We're going to deliver that. Beyond that, it's about marketing and branding."

That remains very much to be seen. Late last week, Best Buy revealed preliminary pricing for the TouchPad, which will match the iPad/iPad 2 at $599 for a 32-GB model.

Can the TouchPad compete at that price point? It's hard to say. RIM's PlayBook is priced similarly, at $499, $599, and $699 for the 16-GB, 32-B, and 64-GB models, respectively. The Motorola Xoom can be purchased for as little as $599 (Wi-Fi only).

If HP truly expects to differentiate through experience, it has its work cut out for it. webOS has so little mindshare in the smartphone world that most consumers have skipped it entirely in favor of Android or iOS. With such highly relevant platforms already shipping tablets in volume, webOS 3.0 has to be beyond killer if HP really thinks it can unseat the market leaders.

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