The Breakdown | Explaining Southern California's economy

Hewlett-Packard tablet reload still won't move the needle

Former California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman was chosen to take over at Hewlett-Packard.
Former California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman was chosen to take over at Hewlett-Packard.
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

As you may recall, Hewlett-Packard distinguished itself in the tablet market by bringing out the TouchPad at $500 and then having to slash the price to $99 (well, BestBuy slashed the price) a little over the month later. Debacle! And this was with a reasonably nice device that ran WebOS, the superb operating system that HP picked up when it took over Palm.

Now Meg Whitman — she of the ill-fated bid for governor of California, now HP's CEO — has said that HP will introduce another tablet "before the end of this year" (Bloomberg) and that it will run Microsoft's Windows 8 OS...eventually.

Oh, also, there will be Intel chips.

It will be an HP Wintel tablet.

Hooray! What a wonderful plan! But... 

As I've written before, there is no tablet market — there's an iPad market. And the only company that's been able to take a bite out of Apple's dominance is Amazon, which with its Kindle Fire isn't selling a tablet but a tricked-out Kindle (a Kindroid) to use as leverage to get more people to purchase Amazon content.

You can see where this is going. There's an iPad market and a Kindle Fire market. Both are "tablets," but that doesn't mean other companies can enter the sector. Because there is no sector. At least you have a kindasorta choice between the iPad and Kindle Fire. But it's really a choice on price. Amazon has just built a $500 device that does some of the same things that the iPad does and priced it like a Best Buy HP TouchPad on fire sale. The experience isn't even remotely comparable (whereas the full-price TouchPad experience WAS, and in many ways it improved on the iPad).

HP is probably thinking that a Wintelblet will attract enterprise customers. But of course Research In Motion already blew it with the enterprise tablet market by creating a tablet, the PlayBook, that was purpose-built with enterprise security in mind. You had to own a BlackBerry to get email on the PlayBook. 

No one was interested in that level of security on a tablet. And besides, consumer usage patterns indicate that tablets aren't necessarily even valid business devices. Whereas PCs and smartphones are used in spiking patterns (different spiking patterns, by the way) during the day, tablets get used at day's end. For reading and watching movies and playing games. For...relaxation. The polar opoosite of the daily grind.

So memo to Whitman: there is no tablet market, and there certainly is no enterprise tablet market (they just get iPads). So please don't try to invent one now.