Price, a new USP for WebOS

I think we are beginning to see the benefits of the HP takeover of Palm.

The launch of the Touchpad, was a tad lacklustre to say the least. Laggy software, the now infamous ‘soft’ launch, indifferent reviews and the sad (and unfair) fact that it wasn’t iPad damaged the reputation of the Touchpad in the important first month.

Palm had a history of annoying its early adopters, for example launching the Pre + not long after the Pre and it seems that this has carried over to the new GBU within HP. This weekend was a Touchpad firesale, in selected stores across America you could get a 16gb TouchPad for as little as $299 (£182!). Had I invested £399 ($652) in a 16gb TouchPad at launch,  I would be more than annoyed.

However, this isn’t a post deriding HP for annoying early adopters in the aim trying to stimulate sales, far from it.

I think its the only way for the TouchPad to succeed.

Finding a new USP:

It had probably calculated that the die hard early adopters could be counted on to line up on day one, however the platform cannot succeed on early adopter sales alone. It also knew that to succeed in this highly competitive market (then again thinking about, its not really all that competitive with Apple having 61% of the market), where every other tablet manufacturer are fighting over the 30% it needed to change the narrative.

I have spoken before about how HP couldnt fight Apple on the same level and win, it needed a hook a USP all of its own. Being not Apple wasn’t good enough, iOS 5 takes a lot of good features from Webos such as notifications, cable-less syncing, cloud storage and if rumors are true even inductive charging.

In short, WebOS has lost the features that separated it from the pack, before the consumer was even aware that it had them.

A product in an market with a defacto leader has a few options to distinguish itself:

Quality, features or price.

It was always going to be difficult to compete on quality as Apple has the lead on unibody construction (although the TouchPad isn’t too far from it), the strengths of WebOS such as Just Type and true multitasking come through use not in 30 second commercial so make it a difficult pitch.

Which leaves price.

HP knows how to do one thing well and that’s drive hardware sales, after all until recently it was the worlds leading PC manufacturer. It does this through competitive pricing which becomes the start point for deep discounting and that’s exactly what it has done with the TouchPad.

Pricing conundrum:

Pricing against iPad is a double edged sword, too high (ala Xoom) and you alienate your audience (“Why should I get that when the iPad is X?”), but launching at the same pricepoint is also difficult (“Why should I buy X, when the iPad is the same price?”).

There are many Android tablets that are cheaper than the iPad, but to get to that price point they have sacrificed many important features that negatively effect the user experience that make it difficult justify the purchase (“X is cheap, but it really looks it”). There are however, very few (if any) tablets that offer a decent operating system, sufficient specifications to run it smoothly (well after the 3.0.2 update anyhow) that also feel good in the hand and are cheaper than the iPad.

If the TouchPad was available in the UK for £250-300 it would fly off the shelves, which is why (if Twitter is anything to go buy) the TouchPad has been selling pretty well over in the land of the free this weekend.

It a dangerous game, but price is the only USP that HP can use to turn heads, once they have the unit in there hands the thought becomes: “It’s well built, it looks good, ok it isnt an iPad but it is a hell of a lot cheaper”.

In these hard times, price is everything but its also nice to get a great product too.


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