8. Tablets are still toys
The unfolding saga surrounding the HP Touchpad contains a goldmine of salutary tales. So, just what can we learn from the last few days? Anyone who says they expected the fire sale of HP touchpads to turn into a global gadget grab is a liar. Fortunately nobody has yet, not publicly anyway – indeed, apart from a few bits of …
Exactly this. The article overinterprets the 'tablet effect', I think. As Marky says, $99 is a toy price. For $99 some people will buy just about anything - a craplet running Android 1.5 in Chinese (I *was* that sucker!), a game console they use for two weeks and then forget about for ten years, a robot vacuum that they use...see above...just about any tech toy you can name, really. It doesn't mean that any of said toys are going to have a profound effect on serious computing, _even if twenty gazillion of them are sold_. Did the Cabbage Patch Kids have any particular definable impact on the human experience? No, because they're toys. I expect the 'impact' of the Touchpad to be similarly muted. If I'd found one I'd have bought it, sure, for $99 for something I can use to browse the web when I can't be arsed opening a laptop. Is that some sort of profound effect on the industry? No, not really.
I completely agree that tablets are toys. Having replied to articles similar to this I ask you to show me something you do on your tablet, and I'll show you how to do it better on a laptop.
I mean come on lets compare a tablet to my ThinkPad:
No contest goes to the laptop. Not even the IPad can come close to the diverse range of apps available for your favored flavor of Windows / Linux / OSX / whatever os you prefer.
With a nine cell battery my ThinkPad comfortably gets 4 hours, usually 5-6. Now tell me when you are away from power (be it mains, car or plane) for more than that time, and tablets don't run for much longer anyway. Ok the extra battery life might be useful occasionally, but in the two years I've had my laptop it has run out of battery twice, and on both occasions because I forgot to pack the power supply.
Again it goes to the laptop. Much easier to type, easier to hold in a comfortable position etc etc.
Once again the laptop wins, being able to connect easily to many different devices, rather than having to play around with specialist printer adapters etc. Furthermore you can tether it to your phone, and not have to pay a separate data charge, which most phones don't support with tablets.
Yes laptops are bigger and heavier, but not by much, especially when you only get 13.3" / 14" models, which are all you need for portable work (ok maybe not if you're doing on location photo / video editing or something, but then you wouldn't be looking at a tablet for that anyway) they are still plenty light enough and small enough to easily carry (I almost always take my laptop with me when I leave the house, and don't have any problems with it being hard to carry around).
Again no brainer to the laptop - much higher capacity, and much cheaper.
This is the only place where a tablet could win. However if you think that most decent tablets when not in a sale are at least £400, and once you add in a data contract (which you will probably want, but don't need with a laptop it goes up again.
So, what is the advantage of a tablet, other than following the herd??????
Tablets aren't meant to replace full-fat laptops (by processor ability not screen size). They can't. They are, in the words of Jobs, media consumption devices and not media creation devices. It is an important distinction as is the constant failing of techies stating "it doesn't have port XYZ or expansion slot ABC" etc etc. The general public don't f*cking care. You might. I might. They obviously don't.
Also, don't ignore genuine uses such as sales/marketing, warehouse stock control (camera useful as a barcode scanner etc), and uses in the medical world. Niche? Maybe, but valid all the same. A laptop is shit to use on the move in these contexts and you'll find that the second use example already has specialised, purpose made input devices for this sort of thing. Specialised in that they are purpose built, mono faceted, and bloody expensive for what they do. Tablets open up other opportunities.
Don't be fooled by the pricing - Apple is always at the top-end and other manufacturers have made the mistake of pricing their offerings there. Tablets will become cheaper over time as does any new gadget. The pricing is what is causing the current spate of comparisons with laptops and over time (after the initial fanboy/gadget nerd period) they will find their true price point at which they become sustainable. In this context you would need to compare an Apple tablet to an Apple laptop or a general market tablet to a general market laptop. Apple's price won't adjust much but the general market tablet-laptop spread will.
To address the other points...
Apps - agreed but do they need the same number?
Battery life - 10hrs compared to your 4. When would you be away from power for that long? Likely never unless travelling. Better question is "when would you have the time to sit around while your device recharged whilst you need it to be portable?" A full day without charging is nice.
Ergonomics - mixed bag. Typing is a comparative fail but walk around usage isn't.
Connectivity - wireless, BT and 3G. They aren't really designed to be connected to other devices - it's not their use-case. Phone tethering is easy and cost free (tethering, not data). Most double as wi-fi hubs.
Portability - they are way way better. No contest.
Storage Capacity - again I would argue that it's not their use-case. Consumption implies "cloud" for better or worse.
Price - the sticking point.
Would I get one? If I had money to piss away then yes. Currently I'm not overly convinced.
>>So, what is the advantage of a tablet, other than following the herd??????
Your whole post says "I've never owned an iPad/tablet". Buy one, and see what a difference it is.
When you've done that you'll understand why our 15 month old iPad gets used for 2-3 hours a day as an absolute minimum.
...than a laptop. A colleague described them as coffee table devices, ideal for picking up to find something quicky and then put down again. They're also 'instant on'; no waiting for a laptop to boot or emerge from hibernation.
A gadget? Yes; a toy if you like, but the only gadget I have purchased and used literally every day since I purchased it.
Posts like these really show why the UK is so far behind the curve when it comes to technology development and adoption:
<No contest goes to the laptop. Not even the IPad can come close to the diverse range of apps available for your favored flavor of Windows / Linux / OSX / whatever os you prefer. >
If I'm going to create that 1000 page government report on why the grass is more green in Cheshire than in Islington I would use a laptop or desktop.
However 99% of the population don't generate this kind of stuff. Watch movies on the go, surf the internet at home and on the move, lookup my favorite cupcake recipe, do my expenses, show my store manager how well they are doing against our other stores, show my CEO how many touchpads Dixons sold in 15 mins vs Dabs!, read your gas meter, look up what part is needed for your washing machine, diagnose why your cars air bag light won't go out, review the results of the medical tests you have had done and many many more uses.
Many niche, granted, but who would have predicted the breadth of apps that would be created for the iPhone when it was launched. Even Bury council is mounting iPads in their bin lorries to show drivers the routes. (A bit of a waste of money really as they should know the route its not as if it is would change every week. Maybe the collections will be so infrequent in future that they will need reminding)
Far better long form PDF documents reading experience. Far better eBook reading experience (try reading an eBook in a portable for hours. Not fun). Just those two justify their existence, specially the lower-end of the spectrum.
As a computer: real no-buts instant on (which is crucial for casual computing), near-zero or simply zero maintenance, portrait-landscape modes. Far better couch potato-bility. Want a keyboard? There are plenty of solutions out there, many of them laptop-ish.
Mind you, I wouldn't abandon desktop computing (and my 24" monitor) ever, but I adquired the cheapest iPad available just for the eBook/web/movies thing (I had an eBook Reader already: it served me well, but the UI was a disaster and the hardware rather so-so), and it has proved to be a computing experience-changer.
I have an eee pad transformer, so I can choose whether to use it as a netbook or a tablet.
Apps: I had an iPhone before and the app store there is far simpler to use than downloading apps to use on my (Windows) PC. I think you might mean that the diversity of programs available for a laptop is greater and I would agree with you; the laptop is a more versatile device. However, it is far easier to get apps onto a tablet or phone than onto a PC. The Mac app store seems to be more like the tablet/phone experience, although I haven't used it much. In terms of ease-of-use (in my experience), I'd put them: 1. Apple app store; 2. Android app store; 3. (and MILES behind the other two) Downloading Windows/Mac software.
Battery life: I think you're misinformed here. Your laptop gets 5-6 hours? I would be appalled if my transformer got less than eight and of course it weighs less because its battery is not so big. I don't know what laptop you have but I'd guess that it weighs at least as much as the Transformer in its netbook form. As a netbook I'd expect no less than fourteen hours out of it.
Ergonomics: I suspect that what you're saying is for *your* requirements. But I would guess that your laptop weighs twice as much as my tablet, so if you often have to use the device standing up, the laptop is hopeless. I suspect that most people use tablets for web-browsing, watching videos and playing games. I mostly use mine on the couch. For many people, the keyboard is irrelevant.
Connectivity: I've never needed to print from my tablet. If I wanted to print I'd use my desktop machine, which is connected to my printer. My tablet is wifi only but I use an Android phone, my contract allows me unlimited data so I use the phone as a portable hotspot if necessary. It doesn't cost me anything to do that.
Portability: "bigger and heavier, but not by much": I would guess that your laptop weighs twice as much as my tablet.
Storage capacity: Your laptop will certainly have more storage than my tablet.
Price: My eee pad transformer cost £430 (remember I can also use it as a netbook). It is now available for under £420. The tablet alone was £345 when I last looked on Amazon.
As far as I can tell, for your requirements, a laptop is better. There are lots of people who don't want to do what you want to do. For some of those people the tablet is a better device. You have to consider other people's requirements.
They're just designed for online communication, media consumption and lightweight creation. You also need to bear in mind that "tablet" does not equal "Apple": their heavily-constrained iOS devices may currently be market leaders, but as per this very article, other systems are gaining traction - the Android tablets in particular offer many significant advantages (e.g. SD slots, USB ports).
So, to take each of your points and respond from a "generic" tablet viewpoint:
I'll fully agree that the "app" approach of Android and iOS is often constraining, but seriously: how many apps do you run on a portable laptop? How much of what you do is via the web-browser?
For me, the difference between 10 hours and 4 hours is the difference between recharging it weekly or every other day - and with their handy-dandy solid-state design and instant-on operating systems, it also means that I'm not as paranoid about firing the device up to quickly check something; booting up a laptop takes longer and drains more energy, as it fires up fans and spins up the HDD...
Horses for courses: a laptop is certainly better for "creation" tasks - typing, editing, etc. However, it's generally not usable in portrait mode (e.g. reading books or websites), they generally require a flat surface to sit on and they're usually at least double the weight of a tablet - for instance, the Thinkpad X1 is 1.7kg vs the 0.6kg of the iPad 2. I'd therefore argue that a tablet is more ergonomic in several situations: sitting on public transport, sprawled on the sofa, etc.
Laptops definitely have better connectivity, but Android tablets aren't too bad: many feature SD card slots and USB ports which can be used to plug in storage and input devices. As for tethering to your phone: Apple (and many phone companies) may have this locked down, but that's hardly a fault of the tablet. And I'd be intrigued to find out how your phone company will be able to detect the difference between a tablet and a laptop: the connection sharing system will be the same, regardless of the hardware.
As noted above, a tablet is generally at least half the weight of a laptop (if not a third or even a quarter); it's also physically substantially smaller, which means in turn that the bag carrying it can be smaller.
To an extent, this is debatable: many modern laptops are using SSDs to reduce weight and power consumption; they generally have more storage than a tablet, but it's a single-digit factor (e.g. 128gb instead of 32gb).
And one nice thing about laptops and non-Apple tablets is that you can easily slot more storage in via an SD card, at a far lower premium than the original manufacturer charges. Apple charges an extra £80 when you go from 32gb to 64gb; 32GB SDHC cards are now available for less than £30 - and you can easily carry half a dozen around if needed.
(And realistically: unless you want to take every single Star Trek episode with you, how much storage do you need to carry around?)
Personally, I agree: tablets are generally overpriced. But prices are dropping, even at retail; PC World is now selling the Advent Vega tablet for £199.99; Comet has a 10" tablet for £129.99 and Maplins have a 7" tablet for £99.
Last but not least: the advantage of a tablet is that I can easily carry it with me, as it's small and light. I can use it when standing on the train during the commuting rush-hour. I can watch movies in landscape mode or read books, comics and magazines, as they're intended to be viewed: held in one hand, in portrait mode. I can easily fire it up to check Facebook or search Google, and a single charge is enough to last me for a week of commuting.
It's very much horses for courses: a tablet isn't going to replace the laptop I use in the living room, or the quad-core monster sat upstairs which handles my video and photo processing activities. But for lightweight, portable consumption, a tablet is nigh-on perfect.
And one final, anecdotal point: I too own a Thinkpad - the touchscreen-enabled X41. Originally, I used to take this on the train with me (Sheffield to Leeds; 40 minutes on the train each way), but despite the fact that it's allegedly the lightest tablet PC ever made (1.2kg), it simply proved too heavy and bulky, so I switched to an iPad, which in turn allowed me to use a smaller, lighter bag rather than using a standard laptop bag. And in turn, this meant I felt a wee bit safer when walking through an inner-city area to get home, as it's no longer obvious that I have some potentially valuable hardware attached to my shoulder...
My eee Pad transformer has replaced my laptop as a meeting machine. I can get a true 16 hours usage between charges, and Polaris Office is good enough for presenting powerpoints or taking notes
I'm currently in London for a 2 day workshop, the meeting room does not have enough power sockets for the attendees and while my colleagues are scrabbling around trying to share chargers I'm sitting here at 2PM with 75% battery, and that's after having also used it to watch a moovie during my morning's commute.
Having said that I would not want to use it full time instead of a 'real' laptop, but it's definitely NOT a toy
Everything you just said (well pretty much) will also apply to a smart phone; the only two things a smart phone does which a laptop does not is:
1. Fit in your pocket
2. Make calls
You can do everything else better and easier on a laptop but you don’t always have a laptop with you because it is big and heavy (comparatively). Smart Phones and eReaders have shown people some of the nice points about having some shiny web accessing tech in your pocket; it has also made a lot of places people gather (pubs, coffee shops, etc.) put in Wi-Fi. This means that people who perhaps have a bag or brief case could now carry a slightly larger Smart Phone without the phone bit so they don’t have to squint at a small picture or lug a heavy laptop with them.
I'm in a lucky position to have had a few tablets, both iOS and Android based they all do what they are designed for (media consumption) very well, personally I prefer the Android system but iOS is good if somewhat overrated. the problem i have with tablets its their main attribute, size.
Too large to fit a pocket means I will normally use my phone unless the tablet is in arms reach, this is why so many have become coffee table devices, this is where I believe most will exist well into the future, and that's a good thing as its where most people feel comfortably (in their lounge watching tv) browsing the internet , playing the odd game , reading / writing emails etc.
this is where the price become so important, Apple pitch high, their customer base is happy to pay high but really a secondary or tertiary device (after computer or laptop & phone) should really be in the sub £200 bracket. I suspect this is what Amazon will go for at least with its budget device.
basically phone is with me everywhere, computer / laptop is for everything and tablet is for lazying on couch reading news and generally slobbery computing.
I have noticed that many of my clients who own iPhones or other smartphones with 3-3.5" screens seem to use them more than people who own newer phones with larger screens i.e. SGS2 etc
I think when limited to 3.5 inch or less on your phone the tablet is more necessary, when you have super amoled plus 4.5" gorgeousness :D tablets get less use.
eBay says the same thing, around £200 seems to be the price people are willing to pay (for the 16Gb model at least). Although I'm not sure at the moment if this is because there is a glut. Once everybody who wants one has one, will the price drop further? If it goes down to £150 I might consider getting one.
The price point.
The cost of an iPad is prohibitive in my opinion. But then it appears I am not an average consumer with limitless disposable income.
A gadget that costs more than I've paid for some cars!
Similarly, I had never thought about a netbook, thinking of them as merely small laptops with a form factor like my old 486 Toshiba Satellite. However, a couple of years ago Asda were selling the Acer Aspire One for £150. That seemed to be a good price to convince myself to buy one.
They sold well, in fact I couldn't get one until I managed to get in the 2nd batch of stock.
It does get a lot of use, and I've triple booted XP and OSX alongside the existing Linux, upgraded the RAM and the WIFI card.
Now though netbooks are just small laptops with the same price as full-fat laptops, with a Windows 7 spec. And accordingly, the netbook market is shrinking.
As the HP touchpad sale has shown, price an item accordingly and it will sell!
Was tempted myself only it was a week before payday.
I will add to this excellent article one other conclusion: people will pay a significant premium for the iPad. Equal pricing from WebOS wasn't or Android isn't enough. Why that is will be a matter for others, industrial design is one factor, the app ecosystem a clear difference.
To compete against apple the peoples will need to charge a lot less, but that's really hard to do given the cost of hardware -display, storage, memory will be the same for apple as everyone else. Maybe another fire sale would kick start the competition, but HP couldn't afford to do it again.
As an aside: I now own a touchpad. good iplayer support, keeps the kids happy. PDF viewer weak. What it does handle is HTML5 apps -which, IMO- is the only app platform that could compete with iOS apps. Which -amusingly enough- WebOS apps were- .
The article hits the nail (or should that be nails) on the head. And also underlines one of the current failings for any one who got their mitts on a TouchPad. Like me, who's typing this on one, the bargain was too much to pass up. I am an Android devotee, having shamelessly indoctrinated every member of my family into getting one. I did not want a TouchPad. I didn't want an iPad.
But the prospect of getting a 32gb tablet from a good manufacturer for £115 is unbelievable.
now I have it, I can never justify getting an Android tablet of this form factor, but I am still holding for a successful port of Android 4 to it. Would I still the currently mooted 2.2 Cyanogen build on it even if it were perfected? No. Within an hour of using it, WebOS has proved itself an excellent operating system and putting anything less than a tablet specific OS would be stupid.
But now I am waiting to see whether the author's point about the platform breeding apps is going to be fruitful now that there is a captive audience of nonsensical bargain hunters like me scouring the HP app store (which is fantastic by the way, if only in construction and execution) looking for all those freebies that I take for granted on Android.
I hope it continues, but if not, the TouchPad will always be a very good media and web delivery mechanism, which is what it is intended to be.
People will buy a "bargain" even if they never use it. (Cue the Monty Python sketch.)
If this tablet had gone on sale at $99 (or equivalent in the other 95% of the world) it would have been a minor success as "the cheap iPad". However the people who bought it would soon realise it's the I.T. equivalent of a wok. Something you can think of many uses for, but after the first couple of times, never get round to using again.
However, sell it for $hundreds off list price and suddenly the horde is scrambling for it. It'll still end up in the cupboard between the wok and the USB coffee mug warmer, but people are only buying it because it's a bargain - even without the piston engine.
HP's handling of the pre3 is even worse than touchpad. Many users(myself included) have been struggling to get their hands of pre3s, despite HP's decision to not launch in the U.S. However even UK retailers are unable to get their hands on any. It seems all of the pre3 stock is being held for HP to make some sort of decision on how to handle it. The supplier I am going through has confirmed their upstream supplier has more than 1,000 units available but is unable to release them at this time. More info is due in a couple of days.
Even the Palm "eurostore" is unable to get their hands on them.
HP surely didn't handle the palm stuff as well as they could of, losing $400M is a drop in the bucket though, I would expect them to blow at least another $2B over the coming years. HP/Palm apparently had half a dozen handsets in development but most were canned due to missing deadlines. What would of helped the most I believe is optimizing the OS - more end to end GPU acceleration. But most of all what they needed was time - time to catch up and catch their breath. There were signs everywhere that things were rushed out the door. I think ramping up more resources over the next year or two would of been sufficient to stabilize the platform. Palm couldn't do it themselves because they were broke by the time WebOS launched.
I like to use MS as a comparison - look how much resources MS has poured into mobile versions of their OS over the last decade and look what they have to show for it -- but they aren't giving up. I didn't expect HP to do so either. But with the change in management I guess came a change in strategy. Too bad too.
I can't find fault in the various shopping sites failing under the load even HP's own site (myself I spent 2 hours refreshing server errors to get my orders through last weekend), it was the lack of communication from upstream which was the problem. The problems continue with the pre3 with resellers getting conflicting information every few hours/day as to when/if they'll be able to sell them and at what price etc.
Communication again - HP had a good opportunity to prioritize hardware allocations to developers and existing customers before opening it up to the world, but failed to do so of course. Look at the Palm developer forums to find the same sort of complaints developers have getting their hands on product that the normal users do.
I saw that the head of communications has stepped down from HP - but I'm sure it's not his fault all of this went on, he's just a scape goat.
HP was entirely too rushed in all of this stuff, there was no reason to drop stuff at this pace.
I have a new HP Veer from AT&T arriving tomorrow, and a new Pre2 arriving today, while I wait to hear the fate of my Pre3s.
First of all it was announced on the euro Palmstore that any orders placed would be adjusted when the order completed to be a discounted bundle offering. Then the option to place an order was pulled. A few days later and the website states that no discount will now be offered, and one was never confirmed in the first place. The site confirms this now and only offer the phone at the original price of £299. Seems a fair few people are still going ahead at this price as there is no stock left and anyone that hasn't been contacted by the store by now is unlikely to get one.
Much like people's opinion of the Touchpad, would buy one discounted but not full price unless there is likely to be some decent/useful apps appear for it.
I've wanted one since they were announced and was prepared to pay for it too. I knew that no one would be wanting one and all the 'cool kids' would turn their noses up at it as it wasnt iOS or Android but I didnt care.
Now chances are HP will flog them off for £50 and I wont be able to get one due to internet meltdown yet all the wankers that didnt want one will snap it up.
Typical. Yes I am a little peeved.
The reason the Android manufacturers priced their tablets in the same range as Apple - is because they had to make a profit. HP took a big loss on every $99 tablet - not a sustainable business model. The company that can deliver and iPad experience (or one closely approximating it) for $99 AND make money - that company will own the tablet market. Right now either you use cheap materials and end up with a cheap, junky tablet or you build it right and your BOM is $300-$350 (There are few companies that can get the volume discounts Apple can).
That the main lesson to be learned is that major companies like HP should buy market share by initially underpricing their products. But nooooo! Heaven forbid doing that! It's much better to overpay in a risky acquisition. Especially ironic given that Leo Apotheker is a software guy, where operating at a loss to build up market share is the norm.
according to the results of some research I am doing, but drops to 61% when you ask about what people plan to do with them in the future.
That however masks that if you also ask how much time they are being used or will be used for work, the numbers of hours per week spent on work is pretty high and the number that people predict they will spend on work is even higher.
Personally, I want it primarily for work, but can't justify the $400+ pricetag for an experiment.
A $99 or $149 fondleslab from a well-reputed manufacturer is almost a no-brainer though.
As for people buying bargains they will never use - that's true enough and why people's garages are filled with junk and their expensive car stands out in the rain and sun.
I have read several SF books where the equivalent of your PC/laptop/tablet+mobile phone/comms centre is embedded directly in your brain.
Hundreds of people are already walking around with computers inside their head to help with medical problems.
It is only a matter of time before medical computers become personal computers and Apple will jump in patenting everything which has been predicted and built for other uses. Some big name company will try to get market share by using a different OS, then suddenly get cold feet.
Todays tablet will be tomorrows computer implant and the cycle will begin again.
Let's face it, at the moment the most painful part of upgrading your iGadget is the cashectomy performed on your wallet / credit card / bank account. When the process involves someone opening up your head and fooling around in there, then even a 24-month upgrade cycle will seem awfully fast.
Would you allow those... uh... "geniuses" in the Apple shop the necessary access to perform the upgrade, let alone maintenance? It isn't rocket science, you know...
"Anonymous Coward" nailed it: Jon Collins's price point argument conveniently overlooks the fact that HP lost a minimum of $100 on every TouchPad they blew out last week (based on the device's estimated $200-$250 BOM).
Meanwhile, tablet makers such as Samsung and Motorola who want to make a profit are finding it extremely difficult to match Apple's iPad pricing without adopting quality-cutting strategies such as cheap resistive touchscreens, smaller displays, reduced amounts of RAM and flashRAM storage, and so on. Apple's huge purchases of LCDs, flashRAM and other components have made them more than price-competitive, as has been reported here at The Reg and elsewhere. (And the same situation is developing in the so-called "Ultrabook" field, as manufacturers despair of matching Apple's MacBook Air pricing--also reported here in recent weeks.)
In short, arguing that because Touchpads flew off the shelves when sold at a huge loss, Apple's pricing is too high is like saying that if BMW sedans sold for $999, they'd overwhelm the market. It's pointless, because you can't build a BMW to sell for that price and make a profit, just as at present you can't build an iPad-quality tablet to sell for $99 and make a profit.
"Meanwhile, tablet makers such as Samsung and Motorola who want to make a profit are finding it extremely difficult to match Apple's iPad pricing without adopting quality-cutting strategies such as cheap resistive touchscreens, smaller displays, reduced amounts of RAM and flashRAM storage, and so on."
(Judge's wig on...) I'll entertain this argument if you can explain how Samsung cannot match Apple's pricing when they make practically all the components themselves, including quite a few that Apple use.
The was BMW underspec their base models such that everything is an option, I'm surprised they didn't take a leaf out of BMCs book.
They originally sold the Austin Mini, Ford bought a base model and discovered that they were actually costing more to produce than they were selling for!
BMC made their money from expensive options such as seatbelts, heaters and radios, on an otherwise stark and basic car. The Cooper models also sold for a healthy margin.
Perhaps tablet makers could make a 'basic' tablet with basic functionality to draw people in, and change naysayers minds. Then they could lure them to deluxe models, with more functionality and upgraded HDD space?
But then, most companies want out of hardware altogether, as it is easier to make a huge margin on sweatshop-codehouse-created software.
is the key here.
Here in Oz there are basically two steel companies. One is in the news with big lay-offs and plant closures. It's being killed by the rising costs of inputs - coal and iron ore, thanks to Chinese competition for the resources. Thanks to this its prices are uncompetitive. The other steel company owns its own coal and iron ore mines. It is making a tidy profit. As the previous poster pointed out, Apple has far more vertical integration. It doesn't own the manufacturers, but has long-term contracts, which is the next best thing. There is still risk involved in that, of course, you have to have products that sell, but if you get that rignt you get a) higher profits b) big barriers to entry for your competitors.
It's good for the steel workers, it's good to hold a long term view about their industry and market place.
But it sounds pretty obvious that they could make more money selling the iron and coal than using it to make steel in Australia.
A public company would take the short term view, sell off the loss making steel foundries and profiteer on the coal and iron.
"Anyone who says they expected the fire sale of HP touchpads to turn into a global gadget grab is a liar. "
The global gadget grab began immediately after the price drop was announced. Considering that nobody could possibly predict that a firesale of such magnitude was coming then of nobody had the time to make any predictions. This statement is nonsense.
" (the uncondonably sexist) justify-to-wife territory,"
Is it "uncondonably sexist" that women make the majority of spending decisions in western households or is is just sexist to point out the truth?
"Less relevant (sorry, geeks) is what’s happening under the bonnet"
While this is true it could also be argued that in this specific case (the HP fire sale) it was primarily geeks who rushed out and bought the fire sale Touchpads as they were willing to take a punt that Android would be ported over and saw it as a super cheap way to get a tablet and see what the fuss is about.
As you point out, there are already cheap tablets in a similar price range and most non geeks couldn't tell you the difference between HP and any other make. I don't buy the argument that non geeks rushed out and bought the Touchpad on the basis that they trust the HP name one bit.
would have bought this at those prices, That includes the millions of Pre users who love their phones and its OS (like I do) Do I care about HP, not really, but they own Palm/WebOS now so in that sense I do. It being ported to Android would be reason to drop it, not the other way around. (Try to understand People like Coke and Pepsi, some like just having a third choice out there like RC. Two choices is not choice, its dictator red or dictator blue) WebOS and all its wonderful free and useful apps, and the Homebrew community ARE the defining difference, they are not like all the other droid offerings out there.
Hell some of us just prefer to buy ANYTHING that runs on something like Linux (like WebOS) and that is not owned by one of the the three big Brothers (Apple, Google and M$)
Look, other companies don't adopt Apple's $499 price point because they want to, it's because they can't price higher.
And they can't price lower because their margin on hardware competitive with Apple is close to zero. Apple is killing them on production cost.
If Samsung or HP were able to make an iPad-competitive tablet and sell it for $249 and make a decent profit, do you think that they just got greedy by holding out for $499 ??
So get it through your thick skulls:-
1. Apple has set the tablet specs, in a general way
2. competitors have to have a better product, rather than "just as good"
3. Apple can build 'em cheaper than everyone else
However that point can be overdone/exaggerated. Latest prices for Asus' Transformer pad and docking station (for example) at Amazon.com are $352 for the former and $125 for the latter - all up at $477, the whole package is *within* Apple's price-point and is selling very well in both the US and Europe (the prices in Europe are as usual a bit higher the package being equivalent to about $545 excluding sales tax though it is all the same selling well here even with sales tax.). A reputable OEM *should* be able to do this and make a profit as long as they do the necessary heavy lifting *and* do not expect to be able to imitate Apple's margins which are currently the largest in the sector.
The combined transformer/dock package is selling at Amazon.co.uk at a price *inside* that of the 16Gb iPad2 (prices include UK sales tax).
In other words it most certainly *can* be done if the OEM understands his business.
>Anyone who says they expected the fire sale of HP touchpads to turn into a global gadget grab is a liar.
Did you think to look through the comments thread on the "HP Kills WebOS Tablet thread" before writing that? There you might have found this: http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2011/08/18/hp_kills_webos_tablets_and_phones/#c_1150545
"DrXym: Firesales ahoy → #
Posted Thursday 18th August 2011 22:08 GMT
In HP murders webOS tablets, phones
I think those tablets will be sold eventually. After all they are still tablet devices that more or less do what they say albeit not at a price point that justifies buying them. So they'll get deep discounted to clear them out. I wouldn't be surprised if someone hacks Android onto it at some point either."
Note that the sales hadn't started yet, and several similar posts in there. What do you suppose was meant by those?
...an Icon. Cute 10.7 capacitve touch pad with a dockable keyboard.
The OS is ???? wait, what? ...windows seven.
Gee! When you snap on the keyboard it looks like a tiny laptop.
Apps? It's Windows.
The short learning curve, 430 USD price including keyboard, and compatibility with mission critical apps made the choice easier.
That's great for the three applications you can get for it that are designed for a touchscreen.
I've remotely accessed my OSX laptop using my VNC on my iPad to experience what a WIMP style GUI is like on a tablet, it's vaguely usable but it's not something I would like to use for hours.
The biggest problem is you try to touch things that are too small and touch the wrong thing. With a mouse you move the pointer until it is over the item to click. With a tablet your finger tends to cover what you're aiming for, so you need much bigger buttons and clickable items.
Ordinary people can unlock a phone. It does not require 70 years experience in the computing industry to reflash a BT home hub. I expect plenty of people thought WebOS could go the some way the moment it caused some minor inconvenience. There were some major problems with the hardware, but it was worth £100. If someone wants to add value to a tablet:
1) Pixel Qi display so the product can be used outdoors on a sunny day. Please gag the twit who thinks a glossy display is anything but a complete waste of money.
2) USB, ethernet and SDHC - all very cheap and sometimes handy.
3) Standardise the size and shape of the battery and PCB so I can replace them as needed like on a desktop.
4) Keyboard - sometimes it is nice to have the display stand up by itself and I need something to protect the display when it gets thrown in my backpack.
5) Keep the price down or the product will be too expensive to take out of the house and I will use a Raspberry Pi at home instead.
6) Pile them high and sell them cheap. I do not need a saleman trying to convince me I need Microsoft Office and an antivirus.
"What a bad idea, for so many reasons – not least that Apple purchasers are prepared to pay a premium because it’s Apple."
That is the trick isn't it? Identifying what the "Apple premium" might be in price point terms and then pitching good quality well thought out kit at the necessary "discount" while still being able to turn a profit. It is in fact not *so* big a mystery. Asus, for example, have shown us how to do it with the ingenious "Transformer" (the "Slider" on the way) and HTC (a company that I normally have a lot of time for) have shown us how *not* to do it with an overpriced 7 inch tablet launched too early to take advantage of the changes in Honeycomb which take into account that form-factor. There is no substitute for some heavy duty thinking combined with a lot of effort to engineer to a saleable and profitable price-point - but that surely is what being a reputable OEM has always been about? In that sense I am *almost* inclined to say, so what's new this time?
One thing I noticed was how badly e-tailers treat their existing customer base.
A golden opportunity came to reward existing customers via a direct marketing email (ie you have been a great customer here is a link to purchase etc)
To me that just proves that online retailers just shift boxes, they don't care about their best / loyal customers as they just want to shift lots of stuff.
Give it 6 months and there will be a glut of touchpads on fleabay.
Was it in the requirements for those website to scale massively for spikes ? No - it wasn't, because that would be a bloody expensive and mostly pointless requirement.
If it was, it would be easy enough.
This is the common misconception of software 'engineering'* - where quality is seen as an absolute...
"you can't have designed that properly'
- er yeh I did - I designed it properly as a real engineer, not as a 'software engineer' who tries to build everything as a gold plated ferrari - failing to recognise 'quality' only as a variable. Thank fuck they only build software - or every tin of baked beans would cost £100.
*sorry, but as a EEE, I am daily stunned by how some of my piers have the audacity to call themselves engineers
Price is clearly the factor, but it's not an absolute. It's price/useful functionality. A lot of us seem to agree that tablets are really handy for some requirements, but for people (like the average Reg reader) who need and use the full power of real computers they will never be a complete alternative to a laptop, they will only ever be an extra, purchased to meet a specific need. As such the price (generally) has to be low enough to justify purchasing the gadget for that one need - justifying £750+ for a main business laptop is no major problem, justifying £400+ for a one-trick gadget IS a problem - but £100-£150? No problem at all. Netbooks show a similar pattern. My AA1 Linux job cost about £250 (with extra life battery) and it's great - it's not a replacement for the main laptop, but in a number of situations it fits the bill, so I'm willing to pay a few hundred. I wouldn't pay £300+ for the same thing though, and that's why the uber-netbooks out now don't seem to sell well. Mobiles need to be small and are for making phone calls, and perhaps doing the odd text. A couple of functions, so I'll pay a £100 for a decent one. Smartphones provide some useful extra functions, but there aren't enough situations to justify £400-500, because for convenience they really don't replace a bog-standard phone. Once I can get a decent Android job for £150-200 or so I'll probably get one.
So it seems to be the successful pricing formula is £50-100 per major function - a one-trick (but useful) thingy can go for £100 (Kindle? HP firesale touchpad), a couple of major functions it's £200 (basic netbook, basic smartphone, souped up trad mobile), after that it's serious money. Decently specced generic touchpads will sell well at about £150-250.
Of course this formula doesn't work for fanbois (of whatever flavour) and for idiots who spend £1500 on a massive 3D telly they'll want to replace in 2 years anyway!
But another takeaway point is that companies fail when they're managed by morons.
Okay - so you can call that poor strategy. But as far as I know no one on the board has looked at this and called out the bad decisions - and bad decision makers - who made it happen.
From a marketing point of view, there's a clear difference between 'built to sell cheap' and 'built to sell expensive and being offered at a massive discount.'
You really have to be a bit dim not to realise that the latter is going to cause a stampede towards any product that's even half way interesting at the higher price.
So the final takeaway is that this isn't so much about tablets as about bargain-crazed shoppers. Tablets are teh sexeh, but it's not impossible that a close-out sale for plain old high-spec HP PCs at knock down prices would have been almost as popular.
Tis true, drop anything by a genuine 75% (not like those shops that have had 75% off for the past 10 years) and people will flood to buy it. Whether they need it or not.
Scale it up. Imagine a £10k car getting sold for £2500. Would it sell? Of course it would even if it was hot pink and as ugly as Jordan's pus.
it was probably still around cost. Its been possible to make these things for around this price for a long while but the general idea is to fleece those with a lot of cash first and then sell at a reasonable price.
There were lots and lots of bandwagon jumpers and HP is just the first to firesale. There will be desperate attempts to keep cheap ones off the market until after xmas but then its anyones guess.
"Anyone who says they expected the fire sale of HP touchpads to turn into a global gadget grab is a liar"
Pure nonsense: it was cheaper than a Kindle and that ALONE was enough to make it enticing to everyone who was yet to buy a tablet or kindle (like me).
On top of that people who had no idea what it was bought them just because it was being sold at such a small % of its original price.
I'm not a liar, I called this the moment I heard about the BestBuy deal. But so what?
Anyway with that off my chest I can read the rest of the article.
I call bullsh*t on the tablet effect.
People don't want a tablet, they want an easy to use, affordable device that provides them with access to the Internet and simple applications.
This market could be addressed by tablets (unlikely as everyone seems to want to play at Apples price point), net books (again unlikely as no one wants to make cheap net books yet but at least they are cheaper than tablets) and the existing low end laptop market (better performance and storage but lacks battery life). Oh, and smart phones.
Tablets have the screen space advantage over smart phones but lose out on portability. Both tablets and smart phones lose out if there is a need for significant keyboard entry.
The question for many IT departments will be "are they a big enough niche to support via software tools/, or should we just support their smart phone or PC equivalents?"
So, smart phones will continue to grow and the combined market share of tablets/net books/low-end laptops will continue to shrink.
Maybe a better term would be "the smart phone effect..."
The big conclusion I'd draw is that there is a market for dead simple devices that a non-techie can use as a web and email terminal. Those people don't care much about OS updates or third-party apps, neither of which they can count on ever receiving for the Touchpad, and they can't justify spending eleventy squillion pounds on a device that has those pointless features.
Of course, I wouldn't really draw that conclusion, as I knew it already.
As soon as I heard that they were going to go on sale for £115 I knew people had to move fast. I phoned everybody who I thought would be interested and there are 3 people with new tablets who are grateful that I knew that the price drop would lead to a global gadget grab and phoned them to clue them in.
The fact that the author didn't realise what the price drop meant doesn't mean that the rest of the world doesn't have two brain cells to rub together.
“Cue massive mistake from just about every other manufacturer – that Apple’s pricing structures should be adopted by everyone else.”
Arguably, a bigger mistake is releasing products at a similar price point, when they are issues which will be fixed “in the future.” Look at the Xoom, want 4G connectivity? Well, you need to send it back. With the Touchpad, performance was sluggish but this has been partly fixed by software updates. When the market leader is a similar price point and has no such problems, what’s the incentive for the average consumer to go for something else? Don’t forget that HP was touting the Touchpad as a premium product – ‘the tablet plus one’ (i.e. better than the iPad).
Something I feel you’re overlooking is that the world and its dog were predicting that the iPad would be roughly double the price that it actually was. One effect was that competitors expected that they would be able to undercut Apple (whilst still charging more than the £400/$499 price point), but found the reality was different – there was no ‘Apple premium’ and I can’t recall a single commentator or analyst that has said that Apple’s iPad pricing is anything but competitive.
When HP reduced the Touchpad’s price by $100, it was reportedly making a loss on each unit - forget about when they were flogged in the firesale, HP was already losing money. To undercut Apple, manufacturers need to either take a financial hit on each unit sold or to produce cheaper, considerably lower-quality kit.
I already have a great tablet/netbook (an Asus Transformer), but I was keen to get my hands on a £89 Touchpad, why...
Because it will almost certainly get hacked to run Android, so it's a second tablet in the house. I would disagree with "3. WebOS has – or had – a market, as do other operating systems"
I think most people picked one up for one of the following reasons.
1/ They don't care it's WebOS and has no future or no apps, at £89, does it browse the internet? Then it's a buy.
2/ Will it get Android and thus have a future?
At the risk of sounding Californian, thanks for all the great feedback, positive and negative. I should probably have been clearer on one point in particular - in terms of liars, nobody writing in the media said in advance that HP would shift its entire stock in under a week, nor (to their credit) said afterwards, "That was so obviously going to happen." For punters like thee and me, the effect was pretty obvious - the moment Touchpads went on sale, people wanted them. Hence indeed, what pushed me to write this piece in the first place.
While I'm here - the question of whether other vendors can sell tablet devices both at a profit and an acceptable price point right now is moot. Yes indeed, in this instance, Apple is charging a fair price for a device based on current manufacturing costs and its own purchasing power. However, the price is still too high for the mass market - but not for Apple buyers and early adopters. As prices drop I can foresee (through a scanner darkly) at least a two-horse race, with a third wildcard linking to the future of Windows.
And then someone else will bring out the roll-up screen and it'll all change again :-)
No shock they became popular for that money, it really is a no brainer. Who cares if it is dead end, likely to receive zero support etc. As long as the hardware works as supplied you've got a great slab for browsing, emailing etc. I would have bought one, but they were all sold out before I saw the story.
At £400, no tablet is going to tempt me, no matter how good it is, for a media consuming device that's just too much cash. I'll stick to using my phone and just hold the small screen closer to my eyes instead.
The likes of Kogan have shown you can put a tablet together for that kind of money, now if only that was combined with a bit more quality control... Maybe Google-rola might have a plan to knock IOS off the tablet top spot...?
"But surely people aren’t so dumb as to buy a device when they don’t know what the future holds for it?"
Of course people are that "dumb".
"Normal" punters don't give a flying proverbial about backwards compatibility, OS updates, security, etc. That's how consumer electronics works. They don't think about it.
Why do we techies not understand this simple observation? It explains so much.
Tablets are for getting IT out to locations where even laptops were too cumbersome to go. You hold it in "one" hand and tap with the other. Is that hard to understand? You can't do that with a laptop because a laptop is supposed to sit on your lap. "Real work" is whatever work you need doing that can be done with the gadget available. If you need to work on some huge aerospace project, you need more than an ordinary PC. If you need to enter data whilst you're walking around, you can't do that with a PC. The smart thing is going to be all the clever tablet only apps -- the ones that only make sense on a networked tablet. Nowadays every office desk has a PC. It should really be called the "Desk Computer" because you need a desk to sit it on. So we have Warehouse Computers, Desk Computers, Lap computers, and now Handheld or "Book" computers. This last one though has been around as a category for a long time but nobody had cracked the design and hardware implementation to actually make a DynaBook in real life. Imagine every chair having a book-computer available, either because there are a few lying on a coffee table or because you brought your own one in with you. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush (or on your desk). This is the dominant future of computing. This is where all the action is going to happen. Also a lot of things we currently consider "essential" work on a PC will probably just sink and disappear.
HP's CEO, Leo Apotheker, has been in post in for about five months - which works out as about two months after the Touchpad was announced.
It's generally reckoned that Apotheker had very little love for that side of operations and gave the Touchpad a single chance.
What a surprise! As someone who spent 30 years in IT doing performance and tuning as a specialist it always amazed me. How many times did I hear the phrase "the new processors/disks are so fast we will never have performance issues again" - yet I was still in great demand. The problem I found was that the focus was always on new functionality (which always excludes performance measures), so none of the programmers every really understood how to make a system perform. As a database expert who saved one investment bank 2m GBP in 2 years on hardware upgrades it doesn't surprise me at all that the web sites crash.
by the real number 1 (which for some reason IT folk seem particularly prone to forget): The greatest thing since slice bread won't sell itself. You still need to tell people what it is, why they need, and how they can afford it.
I saw the Woot.com deal for the HP thingie. I looked it over and couldn't figure out what the OS was, so I wasn't sure what it did and passed it by without a second thought. Then I saw the first of El Reg's Doom articles and went "Oh. Damn! Missed an opportunity there." With the $99 price, HP finally generated what's been missing for too long: marketing buzz about what their product is.
"Why has HP's pointy-haired CEO not been forced to resign? I'm sure he'd have sacked any underling who presided over such a fiasco..."
How much experience of the corporate world do you have?
When did you last read of anybody at any level approaching "senior" getting sacked for incompetence, in any sector of industry or commerce?
If one of these folks fouls up, standard operating practice is to ignore it for a discreet period of time, maybe even describe it as a glorious success in terms reminiscent of the communist tractor output reports etc. After the period of grace it may lead to a sideways move, which will be described in such a way as to give the appearance of a positive for all concerned, even though everyone with a clue knows a major cockup is the real cause.
In the meantime any losses in revenue and profit will not be paid for by the managers responsible, they will be paid for by the Poor Bloody Infantry, often in completely different parts of the business, parts completely unrelated to the iDiots causing the financial problem in the first place.
These folks are only ever responsible when things go right (and when there's money in it for them).
Dilbert. It's not fiction.
"When did you last read of anybody at any level approaching "senior" getting sacked for incompetence, in any sector of industry or commerce?"
How about Apple parting company with Mark Papermaster, senior vice-president of devices hardware engineering, because of the iPhone 4 antennagate?
This was a man Apple spent *months* in litigation with IBM in order to hire, as well.
It's rare but it does happen.
But the CEO HAS BEEN FORCED TO RESIGN - from his previous company, SAP, that is, following his stint that resulted in a disastrous 2009...
...and now he is saying he will turn HP into annother SAP which he knows and ran oh-so-well.
Question raises itself: are HP board members all utter idiots or they are just completely f'n clueless about their own company?
1. Sell relatively desirable products from a well known manufacturer at a MASSIVELY slashed price, people will buy it.
2. Sell relatively desirable products from a well known manufacturer at a MASSIVELY slashed price, people will buy it.
3. Sell relatively desirable products from a well known manufacturer at a MASSIVELY slashed price, people will buy it.
4. Sell relatively desirable products from a well known manufacturer at a MASSIVELY slashed price, people will buy it.
5. Sell relatively desirable products from a well known manufacturer at a MASSIVELY slashed price, people will buy it.
6. Sell relatively desirable products from a well known manufacturer at a MASSIVELY slashed price, people will buy it.
7. Sell relatively desirable products from a well known manufacturer at a MASSIVELY slashed price, people will buy it.
Well *I* expected the rush once the price fell because I know that once something is priced under 100 dollars people will regard it as a safe bet - cheap enough to toss if it is a piece of tat - from all the console game shenanigans I've seen over the years, and that Palm have a loyal audience who were just waiting for the form factor to become useful when the whole idea was junked by the IQ brigade now in charge because the exact same thing happened when palm was bought up by 3-Com (Handspring Visor was born out of that one).
Call me a liar again and I'll kick your snoof organs so hard you'll see God.
"In theory, buying an HP Touchpad was – and still is, if you manage to get your hands on one – a huge risk."
I really don't get this. Yes, if you're going to spend £500 on a tablet, I can see why most would buy an iPad. More apps. Better support. Future updates. Etc. (I'd personally buy an EeePc Transformer, but you get the point).
But people didn't spend £500, they spent £89 / £115.
Given that there's not likely to be a new web, image, video or audio format to become popular overnight, I really don't see why getting a pretty solid device that covers most of the use cases for a tablet for a fraction of the price is "risky".
I have a Dell Studio 1735 laptop if and when I have to replace it I get a desktop I will only get a tablet for outside the house use art sketch pad and e-reader movies,television I can connect a desktop to my television to watch Hulu the tablet I can use to surf the web and e-mail as for magazine,books and comic books I am old fashion I like hard copy and I have had a electronic calculator fall in the toilet end of calculator had to replace if a book or magazine get wet if a attend to them immediately i can still read them before I have to throw them away there are times old is still good as for a sketch pad it also got wet I let dry out and I still sketching on it.
1. Apple makes extraordinary profit on everything so it's more than idiotic to claim others cannot undercut Apple especially if this someone is Samsung who supplies plenty of parts for Apple devices including iPads... it's really not that hard to grasp, even for the typical faithful ones, the absolutely hopeless, thick-skulled Appletards who think "Apple can build 'em cheaper than everyone else.' (sic!) a la' Peter 39... NEWSFLASH: Apple does not build sh!t, contractors like Foxconn, Jabil, Flextronics, Asus etc do using parts from Samsung etc and yes, a Touchpad costs roughly the same as an iPad, around $300 or so, check relevant iSuppli teardowns and yes, Samsung's Galaxy is actually cheaper than iPad 2. There is a reason why Apple acquired a chip designer company or why they are building their own datacenters for their cloud service - since everybody has access to the same parts at almost identical prices (=all giants), vertical integration is key to differentiate and lower costs.
2. If someone enters the tablet market AFTER Apple and wants to beat Apple by building market share then all it takes is money/persistence: the new tablet needs to match at least iPad 2 and has to be 'given away' ie dumped on the market at a very attractive price for at least two generations (~12 months or so); millions of sold units will also attract devs = more apps which helps to sell even more etc. HP should've set aside the same amount it's set to lose on this firesale and start selling tablets for $200/$300, bundling them to higher-priced desktops and laptops, adding to servers for free etc etc. Touchpads would be everywhere by next Spring, when TP2, updated to compete with iPad 3, will be ready to release....check the story of Xbox@MSFT and you'll get the picture.
HP is ruined by this absolutely loser idiot Apotheker who was kicked out of SAP after disastrous 2009 results - and now he's out to ruin another company, this time an even bigger one... it seems boardrooms nowadays are full of retarded people who keep putting bbeancounter idiots or glorified sales guys in charge eg. Stephen "MS Trojan Horse" Elop @Nokia (total loss 'til date: ~50% market value and entire market share in mobile phones) or Leo "Zee Bungler" Apotheker @HP (total loss 'til date: ~30% market value and about to give away entire market share in PC)...
Not on regular resellers anyway, for example Amazon's prices in the UK are
iPads' RRPs are
There are cheaper tablets than the iPad, but none that have similar build quality. Those manufacturers that have tried to equal the build quality: Samsung, Motorola & HP, have all failed to compete significantly on price.
...called Amazon: it gets more hits on a bad day than HP's SMB got at the peak of this firesale.
FYI it's really not that diffcult - all it takes is money and proper planning, both of which are on short supply at HP, a company who put it's entire SMB store on MS SQL... 'nuff said.
" after all, if you’ve worked in IT for more than a couple of decades, you might have hoped we’d have learned some of these lessons and moved on by now. "
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