HP TouchPad crushed by Apple iPad
HP’s radical decision to close its smartphone and tablet unit means the TouchPad, the firm’s competitor to the iPad, lasted just 48 days on the American market before being made effectively obsolete.
The device only just outlasted Microsoft disastrous Kin line of mobile phones, which were available for 49 days last year before they were euthanised.
In Britain, where the Touchpad reached shops on July 15, its challenge to the iPad was even briefer. Its tenure in Australia, where it was released on Monday, must rank as the one of shortest in history for a consumer electronics product.
Harvey Norman, the TouchPad’s exclusive retailer in Australia, has already announced that buyers will get refunds. But for British owners, who paid up to £399 for the device, there is no sign they will get their money back.
In its short life all the omens for the TouchPad have been grim. After a month on sale, HP slashed the price on its website by $50, although it said this was a limited time offer. At the same time bricks and mortar retailers were offering up to $200 of the $599 list price, however.
HP said the discounts were designed to entice students ahead of the new school and college year, but such claims appeared callow when it emerged earlier this week that Best Buy, America’s biggest electronics retailer, had sold only 25,000 units out of its TouchPad stockpile of 270,000.
The death of the TouchPad, along with Palm Pre smartphones, represents a victory for Apple. The tablet market now consists of the iPad 2, the BlackBerry PlayBook and an assortment of Android models.
RIM’s tablet has failed to take off, thanks on part to its limited software (the PlayBook has no integrated email application, the killer app for BlackBerry smartphones, for example), and in contrast to the smartphone market, Android lags far behind iOS.
It is estimated that the iPad is outselling Android tablets from Samsung, Motorola and others by a ratio of about eight to one. And worryingly for Google, a recent survey found that the second-most desired tablet was the now-defunct TouchPad, ahead of any Android device.
The web giant may hope that its $12.5bn purchase of Motorola, which built the Xoom, the first Android tablet to use the specially-adapted “Honeycomb” version of the OS, can help it create a consumer brand to genuinely rival the iPad.
Despite the failure of the TouchPad and Pre smartphone WebOS, their operating system, which HP acquired when it bought Palm for $1.2bn last year, remains highly regarded by developers.
Richard Kerris, HP’s vice-president of worldwide developer relations for the platform, indicated last night that there may be a future for it in licensing.
“[WebOS] is an awesome software platform and now we can explore the best hardware partner for it,” he said on Twitter.
But in the increasingly cut-throat market for tablets and smartphones, most analysts are highly sceptical there can be a place for WebOS now.