HP's Windows 8 Tablet-Better Late than Ever?

VoicenData Bureau
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It's a no brainer now when we say that HP is fishing in troubled waters. But the CEO at the helm-Meg Whitman is determined to steer the company out of it as she puts in place a strategy to transform the behemoth into something nimble, adaptive, and innovative; and a trendsetter. It looks like she is into it literally and a ground-up innovation is what she is attempting, and she is brutally honest. Sample this, in an interview to NBC News, recently Whitman said, “When I joined the company a year ago, I was given an HP laptop, it looked like a brick.”


What makes Meg Whitman's efforts all the more achievable is her reputation to take risks. For instance, she transformed eBay into an $8 bn company from a start-up. But she did bungle with the Skype acquisition that never made synergies with eBay's core operations. And her failed electoral tryst-on a Republican ticket she ran for California Governorship and pumped in close to $140 mn of her own money and lost. What it proves is-win or lose, Whitman takes really big decisions.

Cut to 2012, and critics and followers of Whitman hope she gets things right at HP and hope she does not go like her predecessors-created big hype and then exiting on a sour note. As we look at HP's latest tablet-ElitePad 900-it is primarily meant for enterprise consumers. Is HP trying to become a BlackBerry in the tablet space? In some ways, yes. All these years' tablets have been pitched as a consumer device. But HP, like in the past (Slate 2), is focusing on the enterprise segmentwith ElitePad-a tab purely for business and that sounds a little out-of-the box for sure.

A Tab for Business?


Todd Bradley, HP's VP for Printing and Personal Systems (PPS) defends the company's focus on business. He says, “Businesses used to face a tough purchase decision: How to find a product that will delight employees and help them be more productive while also making sure IT can secure and manage it. The ElitePad meets all those tests. It combines the great style and user experience consumers demand with the features IT requires.”

HP sources say that, “Form factor wise the ElitePad is an ultrathin, lightweight tablet designed for Windows 8 that delivers features to keep IT managers happy and sports a design that employees will crave. HP claims that it offers the full serviceability, enhanced security and manageability found in its Elite PCs, and military-grade durability for drops, vibration, dust, temperature extremes and high altitude.”

But with Apple's iPad now its third generation and Samsung Galaxy pad's newest version on Android-all these features do not look anything new. So where lies HP's sweet spot? First, it is one of first of the few tabs on Windows 8 and based on a full-fledged PC operating system, unlike Android. And with big bets placed on Windows 8, the ElitePad as of now looks like one solid option for Windows users. But HP has had a chequered past with tabs. Its WebOS based TouchPad fizzled out early last year and in the end given for sub $100 for stock clearance and its Slate 2 later last year-targeted on business-did not get any major inroads in the tablet market either.


Under the Hood

So what is HP betting on with ElitePad? Its confidence comes from the plethora of enterprise centric features this device manages to cram into the slim chassis. As we look at the tech specs, the tablet does have some glitter. A Corning Gorilla glass display, latest Intel mobile processor, extended battery life and weights just about 1.5 pounds.

HP pitches its 1080 P 8 MP camera as a big USP with LED flash that has the capability to take full HD videos. Beyond that, features that's worth pondering is the app called PageLift that's developed by HP Labs, that auto-trims the captured image, and HP says this eliminates the need for manual editing. Other ones like print feature to any ePrint enabled printer makes for driver less printing option. Meanwhile stuff like Evernote and Skitch makes information sharing and collaboration easier.


Does a True Business Segment Exist?

As we cut through the features and look at the market segmentation, ever since Intel launched its Core microarchitecture based processors on its Core i series few years back-which is right now into its 3rd generation-the actual differentiation between a commercial and consumer segment has blurred at least in notebooks. A consumer product can do what an enterprise class computing device does and actual business user wants more consumer centric features in their devices. For instance, even so called 'enterprise class notebooks' comes with such features like 'Beats' audio.

So with this thought, the question many are asking loud is does a pure business class tablet makes any major sense in this time of BYOD? Moreover it is the app that drives the device these days and any features can be added with just a click on the app store.


Fingers Crossed...

It is to be seen how HP will go to the market with its ElitePad and it will be available only from January 2013 onwards. Tablets like the RIM Playbook has already attempted this surface HP is scratching and despite RIM's enterprise domination with BlackBerry devices have not driven its tablet play. So in this age of shrinking IT budgets, the success of HP ElitePad clearly hinges on pricing. If HP comes out with a real aggressive pricing, then it will create a compelling value proposition.