Technology Super Bowl: Setting the bar for the HP/Palm tablet
In a few days HP will launch its tablet competitor against the iPad. The Motorola Xoom, which was expected to be the first real iPad contender, isn’t having a good day with a price about $300 higher than the market will likely accept.
Motorola also did an "in your face Apple" Super Bowl ad, but evidently without remembering what made the difference between Apple’s market winning 1984 Super Bowl ad and their losing Lemming Ad a year later. (Hint: Keep it about making fun of the competitor - don’t make fun of the competitor’s customers).
The Xoom may have already lost its chance. So, prior to the HP/Palm tablet’s launch let’s set the bar this tablet will have to meet.
Motorola just demonstrated what not to do. The market likely won’t expect a price premium over the iPad and certainly won’t tolerate a large price premium.
The iPad starts at around $500 and rumors suggest Apple may actually drop the price for an entry product when the iPad 2 launches later this year.
Yes, you can match price and you might even be able to be up the 20% higher than the base product at entry - if your product boasts a number of advantages.
Still, you can’t be 60% higher, particularly if you require, as the Xoom does, a data subscription on top of this price.
Most folks understand that naming a competing product is an important part of the marketing process and therefore must be "cool."
For example, Dell has the Streak, Motorola the Xoom, and RIM the Playbook. But HP has a nasty habit of naming things with letters and numbers as if they were passwords you’d never remember.
That’s why no one can name an HP Smartphone even though they’ve been making relatively good ones for years and eventually they did use names like "Glisten."
If the name is the HGS8976b, even if they connect it to Dr. Dre, it probably won’t sell. The name needs to be in line with Envy - cool, memorable, and desirable. They could even use iPaq, which is similar to iPad and iPaq predates iPad.
Both have the critical processor and graphics performance needed to eclipse the current generation iPad, while measuring well against the (projected) raw horsepower of the second-gen iPad.
Both front/rear facing cameras, along with advanced apps that use them are undoubtedly required. HP - which offers a Halo platform for video conferencing - is expected to excel here.
Base accessories are wireless keyboards and tablet covers, some of which include keyboards. Of course, HP currently offers a line of printers that leverage tablets. If the new tablets don’t effectively integrate with the current printer lineup, it could turn a potential advantage into a magnet for criticism.
HP also has a new CEO in place and a lack of cooperation between working groups - in this case the PC and Printer divisions - would reflect poorly on him.
The Playbook, Xoom, and Streak all have memory upgrade capabilities, suggesting the new HP/Palm tablet will require such a feature as well. This is one of the few areas that Apple has left open for competitive response and if HP missed here, it would definitely be a major problem.
You can’t get close to Apple, Android or even likely RIM without a base library of apps for a brand new product. Interestingly enough, folks using the iPad are apparently only loading five additional applications over the core set of tools on them.
The five I would personally look for are the Netflix app (which currently can’t run on Android), the Kindle app, a good game like Crazy Birds, a good e-mail application, and an app that showcase the unique advantages of the product.
The tablet arrives with the rollout of 4G and will therefore need to support both Wi-Fi and the new standard. In addition, virtually all of the current generation competitors allows tethering as an option - which sets this as a base level, rather than an optional feature.
This really isn’t a "build it and they will come market." Rather, it is a space so dominated by Apple that the name iPad is almost like the name Kleenex in that it practically defines the category. Motorola went to the Super Bowl, HP will need to step up their marketing funding and/or execution or all of this will have been a waste of time.
Wrapping Up: Yes, It’s a High Bar
Apple sets a high bar and few companies can meet it. Yet, this bar is what HP will need to exceed if they hope to compete against the iPad 1 and hold its own against the iPad 2.
Even meeting this bar doesn’t assure success because Apple will clearly not let this segment go without a major fight. Meanwhile, the iPad 2 appears to be a formidable product expected to sport an even more advanced Retina screen at the high end.
We’ll know in a few days if HP has what it takes.
If they don’t, well they’ll simply be added to a long list of Apple competitors that couldn’t make the grade. Of course, if HP does manage to challenge Apple, it alone will rank as the only company in recent years that moved successfully against Cupertino.
All eyes will be on this launch, while careers in both companies will be made or lost on the execution. This is the Super Bowl of technology. Even getting into the game isn’t easy, winning it against Steve Jobs was impossible, however, without him there is a definite chance.