Not too long ago, HP was laying out its vision for its then-new TouchPad tablet. It involved the company’s dedication to making the TouchPad a success, and–everyone at HP who I spoke with repeated this word until it rang in my ears–the “scale” the giant company could being to the effort. The strategy was ambitious and clear.
Then, week before last, HP abruptly responded to disappointing initial sales for the new tablet by killing it. That was depressing. But clear.
Then it decided to blow out the remaining Touchpads for $99 apiece. Poignant. And understandable, at least. I mean, it’s better than dumping them in landfill.
Here’s where I get confused…
- HP’s Mark Budgell says that the company was “pleasantly surprised” by the response to the $99 TouchPads. And so it’s going to make some more TouchPads. After saying it was done making TouchPads.
- Todd Bradley, who heads up HP’s possibly-to-be-spun-off-or-sold PC group, says that “Tablet computing is a segment of the market that’s relevant, absolutely” and that (according to the LA Times) “HP could bring back the TouchPad or offer up a different tablet at a later date.”
- The official HP TouchPad site doesn’t seem to acknowledge the tablet’s current situation. It says that “bazillions” of WebOS apps are on their way. (Hey, can you let me know when they get here?)
Is it so startling that the TouchPad is selling well at 80 percent off its original price? And is HP planning to make more TouchPads, sell them at $99, and lose hundreds on every sale? If so, why? And why not sell $1000 laptops for $200 as long as they’re at it?
If tablets are relevant, why did HP decided to get out of the game six weeks after getting into it? Doesn’t entering the market, leaving it, and then saying you might re-enter it make you look, um, indecisive?
Look: I think that tablets are going to make top a meaningful percentage of the PC market from here on out. If I owned the world’s largest PC company, I’d want to make tablets. There may be a plausible argument for not getting into the market, too. But coherency is important. And HP’s tablet strategy, if it has one, is growing less coherent by the day.
When HP spent months bragging about the resources and dedication it would bring to the tablet market, and then gave up the moment the tablet didn’t do well–which wasn’t surprising given how buggy it was–it damaged its own credibility. (The next time HP announces something inventive and cool, I won’t blame anyone who asks whether it’ll stay on the market for longer than the TouchPad did.)
I was rooting for WebOS. I thought the TouchPad had promise. I’d love to see a surprise happy ending to this whole saga. (If HP holds a press conference tomorrow and announces it was just kidding about that whole killing-the-TouchPad thing, I’ll cheer.) But wouldn’t it be better if HP said nothing at all about its tablet plans until it has something to say that makes sense and stays true for more than 72 hours?