HP TouchPad in Education, an opportunity?
State of the Union:
- #1: The iPad is the only tablet around in the mind of the consumer, that 90% market share that Apple cited during the iPad 2 launch is no joke.
- #2: The iPad is not perfect
The iPad has driven tablet prices to a hitherto impossible level (see the multitude websites stating the iPad 1 would launch for £999 or similar) and most if not all tablet manufacturers are a year later still scrabbling to catch up. I don’t think that Apple will cede the number one position anytime soon, the total ecosystem it offers is difficult for individual suppliers to combat.
As we all know the UK Education market has been ravaged by cuts and tightening of ICT budgets, institutions nationwide (and globally for that matter) are having to do more with less. At the same time mobile devices are becoming more prevalent both in and outside of education. The iPad has achieved two things, first its created the mindshare for what tablets can do and secondly its raised the bar for what is acceptable for a tablet.
This is a doubled edged sword as its created demand for the device but at a time where investing £399 in a mobile device is difficult to justify.
This become all the more difficult when you try to integrate the iPad into your existing education environment:
- iPads offer no access to the file system so do not work with VLE’s (i.e. you can’t upload into areas)
- Schools can’t use systems like drop box due to third party data protection issues
- You cannot bulk specify a proxy, even with the iPhone configuration meaning that a tech will have to manually enter it on each iOS device (fine for one class, not for an entire school)
- A iPad can only sync with a total of five machines, yet does not offer any out of the box cloud/wireless ways of transmitting content
- iPads are poor content distributors i.e. give a student a task that requires them to create and then share content with the teacher and it will in most cases require 3rd party work arounds
In short the iPad creates fundamental barriers to integrating it into education and Apple is unwilling to help ‘We’re not looking to go in that direction’ is a response I’ve received from an Apple engineer when discussing the above issues. In spite of this, they are the number one requested item by teachers and because of this I think that HP has a distinct opportunity to flourish in the education sector as the only credible alternative to the iPad.
Lets not forget the elephant in the room, Android.
Android tablets fall into two catagories, cheap and nasty or prohibitively expensive. Add to this the lack of a consistant UI (although this may change with Honeycomb) and a lack of tablet formatted apps stacks the deck against wide scale adoption of the platform.
Try to convince a user:
- ‘So it’s cheaper than the iPad?’ No
- ‘Ah so that means it must be lighter!’ No
- ‘But it must have hundreds of tablet Apps!’ No
What is the incentive for the user to invest?
This is the issue that manufacturers of Non – iPads face, everything you do, all of your services are going to be compared to the iPad, whenever I talk about the Xoom, TouchPad to people the word tablet fails to have any resonance ’Oh you mean an iPad…’. Manufacturers need to understand is that the product they are going to buy is an iPad, unless you give them a damn good reason not to. This is clearly demonstrated by the lack of interest in the Motorola Xoom despite having impressive specifications 1280 * 800 resolution screen, 1GB ram, dual core processor etc it means nothing to most users.
TLDR? In short being better wont win the war.
So is HP doomed? I’m not sure.
And it hit me, there’s the hook, the USP for use of the TouchPad within education, it goes a little something like this:
- Offer a slight discount on the hardware, it doesn’t have to be massive but enough for the cheapest model to undercut the 16gb iPad
- Offer a training program for Teachers to learn about WebOS and how develop Apps for themselves
- Offer on site support to those Teachers when they teach these classes
Think of the PR potiential of the above:
- The School gets devices at a discount
- Students get not only access to devices but learn marketable skills for the future
It means that HP doesn’t just sell devices, it offers the those that invest in the TouchPad opportunities to enhance their Students career potential.
Apple is doing everything it can to hold itself back in the market, HP has a real chance to capitalise on it but only if it offers something different.