Industry onlookers have lambasted HP for a lack of investment in the doomed TouchPad tablet PC, but some have questioned the wisdom of the decision to can it just a month after launch.
The TouchPad was launched into the market in July, but HP confirmed yesterday that it is to cease production of all mobile computing devices. In a conference call with investors, transcribed by Seeking Alpha, chief executive Léo Apotheker (pictured) claimed "sales of the tablet are not meeting our expectations."
"The velocity of change in the personal device marketplace continues to increase, and the competitive landscape is growing increasingly more complex, especially around the personal computing arena," he said.
"There is a clear secular movement in the consumer PC space. The impact of the economy has impacted consumer sales and the tablet effect is real. And our TouchPad has not been gaining enough traction in the marketplace."
The TouchPad was released in the UK, France and Germany on 15 July and figures from Context reveal HP punted 15,000 units through distribution across western Europe last month. But in the first week of August just 700 units were sold through. Sales picked up in the second week, however, with 2,200 TouchPads going out.
Salman Chaudhry, product manager for mobile computing at Context, told ChannelWeb he felt HP could have invested more time and money in the development of the product after unveiling it near the start of the year. He pointed to the example of Samsung, which pushed back the release date of its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in order to develop a thinner, lighter model.
"In January and February there was a lot of hype around the TouchPad," said Chaudhry. "But the level of support, the level of publicity and even the R&D that went into the TouchPad hardware did not necessarily set it up for success."
Steve Brazier, chief executive of analyst Canalys, was surprised by the swiftness with which HP has chosen to axe the TouchPad.
"From a European perspective it was early days – nothing sells over the summer," he said. "It was difficult to compete with Apple in the consumer space. The TouchPad could have succeeded in business, but it would take 12 months to gain any momentum."
Brazier added that retail and B2B channels will be left with an unwelcome pile of hard-to-shift stock.
"It will be interesting to see how they manage that," he said. "Presumably they will sell it as quickly as possible at whatever price they can get."
Sam Routledge, solutions director at Softcat, was another to suggest the TouchPad could have been a success given more time.
The future for HP's webOS mobile operating system is not yet clear. The vendor acquired the technology through its $1.2bn (£787m) acquisition of Palm last year and Apotheker claimed the vendor is now considering what to do with the software.
"We know that many developers feel the operating system is elegantly designed and is a respected platform," he said. "Therefore, we are exploring options for how best to optimise the value of webOS software going forward."
Context's Chaudhry claimed he hoped the operating system has a future in the industry, describing it as "very well programmed and designed".
"If it is no longer licensed only to HP, this could be a good thing for the tablet form factor in general, and the competitive landscape of the OS arena," he added.
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