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ATPM 17.09
September 2011





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by Mark Tennent,

2011 and All That

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness has come early this year. Maybe not the mists, but fruitfulness to be sure. Gardeners will tell you that their apples are better and earlier than any year they can remember. Equally, their tomatoes are a dead loss. Which considering the fortunes of Apple and Hewlett-Packard is a remarkably similar story.

Who would have thought that Apple would become the richest company on the planet, more so than Standard Oil or Microsoft, as well as many governments. Similarly, that Hewlett-Packard could soon be shrinking to become a services supplier by selling off their PC and other high turnover, low profit businesses. They should have taken up Steve Wozniak’s offer for the computer that became the Apple I design in the 1970s. But they didn’t get it.

Hewlett-Packard’s woes are partly due to their potential customers not getting it, either. Their TouchPad is a decent enough tablet device if a little on the thick side. It runs HP’s WebOS, the successor to PalmOS, and was well received, especially as HP reduced its price to far below Apple’s iPad. Unfortunately, the TouchPad has not sold well, with reports of companies such as Best Buy having hundreds of thousands of unsold stock.

Reviews of the TouchPad have given it good ratings, but the comments at the end tell another story where the Windows fanbois just don’t get what tablet devices are about. They bleat that they won’t buy one until it runs Windows 7 instead of accepting a tablet for what it is, an adjunct to a PC or laptop. Tablets also happen to run Web browsers and other Internet apps as well as having a decent showing in music, graphics, games, books…the list grows longer as app developers dream up new ways to compute with a tablet.

Unfortunately, HP has had a similar failure with its Pre 3 cellphone in the UK, where the Palm Pre and Pre 2 had the same lack of success before HP bought Palm. The Pre 3 and TouchPad are designed to be able to communicate with each other using HP’s Touchstone technology, but so far none of the cellphone operators has shown any interest in it.

With the world already flooded with phones and pads running Android, playing catch-up to Apple’s iPads and iPhones, it looks like HP and the others such as RIM, have got to find a unique selling point for their offerings. It cannot be price alone as HP has found out.

RIM’s BlackBerry phones used to be the mainstay of the organisation I work for but BlackBerrys cannot access Citrix servers. My employers have moved to iPhones instead, introducing many more hundreds of users to Apple products. Next they intend issuing iPads to all professional staff, to take the place of Dell laptops. This is a move my colleagues can’t wait to happen because of the weight of the Latitudes they have to lug around.

If only they would embrace all things Apple, dump Windows, and move to Mac OS X. That is, sadly, still a step too far for my employers, but not for the BT engineer who is trying to work out why BT’s VOIP doesn’t work in our office. He would gladly dump the Microsoft technology he has been working with for the last few decades.

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