Hewlett-Packard’s upcoming TouchPad may not unseat the iPad in the tablet market, but it has a better chance than the crop of Android-based tablets coming out from Google partners like Motorola.
Why? The same reason why Apple has dominated so far: retail distribution.
An HP spokesperson explained today that thanks to its huge PC and printer businesses, the company has 8% of shelf space in consumer electronics retailers.
That lets HP get the TouchPad in front of millions of customers who are walking through stores like Office Depot and Best Buy. These places don’t have the cachet of the Apple Store, but they’re far more numerous, and HP is all over them.
Palm and HP have had very little success with smartphones. In the last quarter of 2010, WebOS tied for last place with Windows Phone 7 with 2% market share — and Microsoft’s platform launched halfway through the quarter.
But that’s partly because smartphone distribution is heavily influenced by the carriers, who love Android because they can customise it in many different ways and sell it on devices at all different price points. Tablets are more like PCs and printers — data contracts may be a consideration, but it’s not like cell phones where users buy them primarily for communication and may be locked into a preexisting contract with a particular carrier
HP also has a better end to end story than Google, which is relying on its hardware partners to make cool devices and market them intelligently. HP may not be Apple, but it knows how to build and market consumer hardware.
Integrated hardware, software, and retail work: Apple has proven it. The TouchPad demos well and if it’s priced right it should sell.