HP says more tablets coming as it puts past distractions behind
BARCELONA—Hewlett-Packard made some noise at Mobile World Congress with its new Slate 7-inch tablet and then the sale of webOS assets, but the company says it’s looking to put past distractions behind and will release more tablets in the future.
“You can expect going forward [to release] a family of products,” said Shane Wall, chief technology officer at Hewlett-Packard’s mobility group, in an interview at MWC. The mobility trade show is being held in Barcelona from Feb. 25 to 28.
The 7-inch tablet attracted a small crowd at the HP booth, with people lining up to photograph or use the device. The company effectively took a dive into the low-cost tablet and tried to differentiate its tablet by a lower price, and also features like a micro-SD card slot for expandable storage and dual-cameras. Google’s $199 Nexus 7 is priced higher and has a quad-core processor, a higher-resolution screen and Android 4.2, but HP believes it will sell a lot of the tablets at the $169 price.
“We’re obviously late,” Wall said. “We wanted to start and see how aggressive we can be on the low end.”
The Slate 7 also signifies HP’s re-entry into the consumer tablet market after a disastrous stint with the webOS mobile operating system, which it got with the acquisition of Palm in 2010 for $1.2 billion. The first webOS tablet, the TouchPad, was launched in 2011, but later discontinued along with webOS smartphones. Since then, HP has released enterprise tablets such as ElitePad 900 with Windows 8, and now the company has adopted Android for consumer tablets.
HP on Monday sold some webOS assets including source code and personnel for an undisclosed amount to LG Electronics, who will use the assets to expand the web capabilities in its smart TVs.
But the company is moving on from past distractions, and has formed a new mobility group that is taking a fresh look at mobile devices for consumers.
“When Meg [Whitman] came in, she re-emphasized long term… we need to be in the mobility space. Just forget about the things that happened in the past,” Wall said.
Wall, who joined HP just recently, said the webOS and Palm assets helped in designing the Slate 7.
“I wasn’t here for webOS, I wasn’t here for Palm… but we certainly had that research and the benefits that my team gained from that,” Wall said “We took in all the experience we had.”
HP mulled about the Slate 7 for a year, and developed it quickly. HP is initially focusing on tablets, and Wall did not say whether a smartphone would come soon. But Wall said the aggressive pricing should help it quickly gain tablet market share, Wall said.
The company in the past gained tablet market share when it decided to discontinue the TouchPad and sell off remaining units starting at $99, but that share gain was short lived. The fire sale launched a buying frenzy, which gave HP a temporary boost in tablet market share. But that quickly vanished as TouchPad units sold out.
HP worked closely with Google on Slate 7, and there could be an upgrade to Android 4.2 sometime in the future. Additionally, Wall did not say if HP would provide a cloud service for its low-end tablets, but there could be something in the future.
“You could expect with the cloud investments that we’ve made over time, our ability the link is certainly there, and we’ll exploit that,” Wall said.
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