HP TouchPad: See ya, don't want to be ya

HP's Palm-based tablet is dead, Jim. It's more proof that the lumbering dinosaurs of tech just can't keep up any more

That was fast. Less than two months after jumping into the tablet market, HP is bailing out sans parachute.

The HP TouchPad thus blows past the Microsoft Kin for the fastest introduction/termination of a product in recent memory. The Kin was available for 56 days before MSFT pulled the plug. The TouchPad managed to last just 50.

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Nice goin', guys. I bet if you really put your backs into it, you could launch and kill your next product in under 40.

There are other similarities between the TouchPad and the Kin. Microsoft purchased Danger, the inventor of the beloved Sidekick, to build the Kin. It then proceeded to drive out most of the Danger people who had any talent.

HP acquired the people behind the beloved Palm. Then HP took its sweet time building out a wimpy tablet based on the WebOS. I'm betting a similar brain drain occurred along the way.

The problem here isn't the underlying technology. The problem is the culture that produced things based on the underlying technology. Microsoft and HP are lumbering dinosaurs trying to catch mice. If they occasionally manage to kill one, it's only because they stepped on it by accident.

They need to leave the game to smaller, more nimble competitors -- or at least big companies like Apple, Samsung, and LG that know how to act like smaller, more nimble competitors.

That's why HP spinning off its PC biz is a smart move. It simply can't react with the speed necessary to survive in today's consumer market. It's not in the company's DNA. At heart, HP is an enterprises services company, like IBM -- so is Microsoft. Get out of the consumer game, guys, before you get seriously hurt.

Right now, the tablet market looks like a flash mob. In six months, it won't. I've used the iPad, the BlackBerry Playbook, the TouchPad, and a slew of Android devices. Aside from a few small specs -- a quarter-inch of thickness here, a few ounces there, two cameras instead of one -- they really aren't much different. Apple fanboys may cry foul at that statement, but your average biped would have a hard time picking their beloved iPad out of a lineup of other tabs.

The real difference between these devices is the number of apps they do or don't come with. Had HP spent the 14 months after it acquired Palm building out an impressive WebOS app store instead of dickering around in product marketing meetings, the TouchPad might have had a chance.

But it's really a two-horse race, and one of those horses has way too many jockeys. A survey by market research firm Robert Baird indicates that people don't want tablets. They want iPads. Given a choice, 95 percent of the people surveyed would buy an iPad. Only 10 percent said they'd buy a TouchPad, with smaller percentages opting for one of the 3,247 Android models.

I bet that -- and the 200,000 TouchPads allegedly sitting in Best Buy warehouses nobody wants -- is what convinced HP to kill it.

There's one more key difference between the iPad and all the others: marketing. Apple is better at it than anyone. Really, nobody else comes close.

So good-bye, TouchPad. It was almost nice almost knowing you.

Are you a tablet fan? If so, which one would you buy? Post your thoughts below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "HP TouchPad: See ya, don't want to be ya," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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