Hewlett-Packard made the surprising announcement last week that it would discontinue its TouchPad tablet and WebOS business to focus its efforts on enterprise systems, software and services. The move came less than two months after it announced the launch of its TouchPad tablet, and helped signify just how difficult it is to be competitive in today’s mobile space.
But HP’s failure does signal more than just what is going on in today’s mobile market. In fact, the company’s failure says quite a bit about what HP was trying to do in the mobile space and why its stumbling attempts at mobile prominence failed. From a misunderstanding of what Apple is all about to CEO Leo Apotheker’s determination to take HP in a new direction, HP’s mobile division never had a chance to grow into a stable, profit-generating operation.
Read on to find out why:
1. It misjudged Apple
Like far too many other companies in the mobile market, HP failed to realize that Apple’s popularity in the mobile space was not going to slow down anytime soon. The company seemed to believe that after the iPad 2 stayed on store shelves for a while and the iPhone 5 continued to be delayed, it could capitalize on impatient would-be Apple buyers. But that never happened. Instead, those folks just bought Apple products-and HP lost.
2. It didn’t play the Android game
One of the biggest mistakes HP made was not accepting Android. Like it or not, in today’s mobile market, Android is the operating system that every vendor (except for Apple and Microsoft) should be using. It’s a mobile OS that people know and trust, and it has been proven to sell quite well in the mobile space. To double down on WebOS was a mistake.
3. WebOS wasn’t appealing
WebOS itself simply wasn’t all that appealing. The operating system lacked enough third-party applications to attract consumers, and its functionality was simply too different from iOS and Android for customers to give it a second look. What’s more, the operating system wasn’t really known outside of tech circles, putting it at a disadvantage from the beginning.
4. The TouchPad was a mistake
HP’s TouchPad tablet was a mistake from the very beginning. As mentioned, it was running WebOS, which already put it at a disadvantage. Combine that with the fact that HP made the device look awfully iPad-like, complete with a similar design, identical price tag and the same screen size, and it quickly becomes clear that it didn’t have much of a shot to start with. Devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 are doing well because they’re different enough from the iPad 2 to justify a purchase.
5. The smartphones were boring
Let’s face it: HP’s lineup of smartphones simply wasn’t all that interesting. The Pre and the Pixi lines were also-rans that neither consumers nor enterprise users even cared about. What’s more, they featured small displays, sub-par functionality and designs that seemed rather derivative from other vendors’ older earlier models. They contributed heavily to the decline of HP’s mobile business.
Mobile Didn’t Fit Into Apotheker’s Vision for HP
6. Leo Apotheker
When HP CEO Leo Apotheker came in, it was clear that many things were going to change. Apotheker, a former SAP CEO and career-long software industry executive, immediately started talking about software and discussing his vision for the future of HP. Mobile didn’t seem to have a high priority in those discussions. As soon as the mobile business started to falter, Apotheker, who has no real experience in hardware to begin with, saw a chance to kill it. Make no mistake, one of the key reasons HP’s mobile business failed was because of Apotheker’s desired market focus.
7. Bad timing
When it comes to the release of the TouchPad and the latest version of WebOS, HP’s timing was horrible. The company ostensibly believed that by delivering its latest and greatest solutions over the summer, it could give itself enough of a buffer from Apple’s product launches to carve out a piece of the market. But what HP failed to realize is that Apple is still incredibly dominant in the mobile market. And so far, that dominance doesn’t appear to be waning. The better idea would have been to wait until next year when maybe (just maybe) consumers might have been more willing to accept a new solution in the marketplace. Right now, the novelty of Apple’s products has yet to wear off.
8. The enterprise didn’t care
If there is any market that’s central to the success or failure of HP, it’s the enterprise. The company has long relied upon that market to sell its high-end hardware and software products that drive its profits and growth. However, the firm’s mobile products did not catch on in the enterprise. In fact, most IT decision makers scoffed at the idea of adopting WebOS. That hurt HP’s mobile efforts in a big way.
9. Distractions galore
The problem at HP prior to its decision to discontinue the TouchPad and shutter its WebOS hardware business was that the company seemed distracted. It was trying its luck in a host of markets and trying to get a new executive acquainted with how the firm was run. All the while, it was trying to salvage the pieces of a Palm mobile phone unit that was shattered by the HP acquisition just a year ago. It was a perfect storm of sorts at HP, and that mobile business was a critically ill stepchild.
10. It played Apple’s game instead of Google’s
HP erroneously believed that it could be Apple. The company decided that in order to be successful in the mobile market, it would need to offer both hardware and software. But the plan backfired. Instead, HP should have simply followed Google’s lead and either used Android in the devices it developed or licensed WebOS to other vendors. In either case, it would have been a better move. Too bad HP didn’t see it that way.