Monday, June 13, 2011

HP's Touchpad: will the launch of a WebOS tablet grow the market, or simply drive more developers to iOS?

It might sound counterintuitive, but it is possible that as more tablets are released, and more mobile OS platforms introduced, that developers will become even more committed to the iOS platform as a sort of base from which to begin app development.
There is no doubt in my mind that HP's new tablet, the Touchpad, to be launched into the US market on July 1, has a more than decent chance to be successful. HP is a tech giant, of course, that reaches into a wide and deep retail environment. No doubt you will see Touchpads wherever you go when shopping. Whether you will see consumers guys them is another question, but I'm not pessimistic.

But as HP's tablet gains traction the question becomes will developers create for the platform. I think they will. But the real question is will developers consider the platform as core to their work as iOS. This is questionable.

I have always assumed that once Android tablets became available that developers would flock to Android simply because, like smartphones, Android tablets would quickly overwhelm the iPad. I even thought it possible that by the summer we might see a flip in the habits of developers – instead of developing for iOS first, then porting to Android, the opposite would occur simply because of the market shift.

Well, there has been no market shift simply because while Android is outselling the iPhone, it is not outselling the iPad. Part of the blame for this goes to the manufacturers who over promised and under delivered: launching tablets that run on versions of Android not specifically geared towards tablets, or else, the case of Motorola, launching a tablet that is half-baked, without the apps necessary to lure buyers in droves.

One would think that HP, being a mega-seller of hardware, would be in a better position to succeed. The videos below, released on the company's YouTube channel, are certainly impressive (to a certain degree), and they are definitely better than those special effects laden commercials from Motorola that actually don't show the consumer anything. But while the word "magic" is used a few times, what we really are getting here is the same silly attempt to overwhelm potential buyers with features. (Rule #1, you sell benefits, not features.)

July 1 is launch day and if HP understands what buyers what they will make sure important apps ready to go for buyers. If they don't, they will have another nice piece of electronics that will join the other tablets that sit at Best Buy and other outlets while consumers play with iPads.

In the meantime, you can be sure that if sales are even modest that digital publishing solution providers will be able to help publishers develop for the platform, just as they have Android. But if the WWDC survey is any indication, WebOS is not a high priority for native app developers – at least for right now.