Ode to Another Failed iPad Killer

The deal of the day from Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) property Woot looks mighty familiar -- yep, that's the recently launched Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) TouchPad tablet!

The 10-inch tablet that runs webOS software from that old Palm acquisition can now be yours for $385, shipping included. New, not refurbished. Even if we're talking about the cheapest version in the TouchPad lineup with just 16GB of storage, that's a pretty sweet deal. Buying the same thing from RadioShack (NYSE: RSH  ) right now will cost you $499.

The fact that the TouchPad is showing up in clearance-sale service Woot now, just a month after the official launch, tells us volumes about how it's selling. Or, you know, not selling.

In fact, Woot is not the only place where you can find discount-priced TouchPads today. The larger Amazon site offers an instant $100 discount, as do Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  ) and HP's own online store. I guess RadioShack just didn't read that TPS report yet. (But Woot is still $15 cheaper than any of the above options.)

So the HP brand name didn't sell TouchPads, and neither did a marketing push with B-list celebrities like Russell Brand. The much-touted user friendliness of webOS didn't help. Having top-notch hardware, including a LED-lit screen and a high-speed Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM  ) dual-core processor, also did nothing. And now HP is basically giving up on it.

This thing may beat the pants off the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPad on paper -- but guess which one shifted more than 9 million units last quarter and which one was relegated to the discount bin in less than a month? Yeah, you got it. And the story is pretty much the same for the Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) PlayBook and Motorola Mobility Xoom: high hopes and great specs but disappointing sales.

Don't expect the supposed iPad killers to stop coming. Also, don't expect them to actually kill anything, short of a massive shift in marketing strategy. Apple knows what people want and work hard to deliver exactly that, including a feel-good message about the magic an iPad brings into your life.

The best device doesn't always win. The best marketing does. Read more about marketing folly and fortunes:

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Qualcomm, Apple, RadioShack, Research In Motion, and Best Buy. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Best Buy, and Amazon.com, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio, follow him on Twitter or Google+, or peruse our Foolish disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2011, at 1:48 PM, xh00sier wrote:

    I was surprised to see it on woot but then again I think HP just wants to get a lot of them out there for people to use. Read the reviews by actual users and not those paid for by apple. you will see that this is a really good product. they are working through some bugs but so did apple in the beginning. Remember something about the reception on the iphone??

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2011, at 2:00 PM, AnotherCynic wrote:

    Without any sales figures available to back them up, most of the claims in this article amount to pure speculation.

    Anyone who's ever purchased a computer product not made by Apple knows that discounts and incentives are key sales tactics. With the TouchPad, HP isn't doing anything different than it does with the pricing of its ever-changing line of desktops and laptops -- and I don't see any analyst willing to argue that means they've given up on PCs.

    Investors and analysts would do well to stop looking for the next iPad killer. It doesn't exist -- and won't exist -- because the biggest threat to Apple's dominance in this market won't come from one product but from many. In the meantime, there's going to be plenty of money to make off both the innovators and the copycats.

  • Report this Comment On August 06, 2011, at 11:06 AM, deemery wrote:

    > The best device doesn't always win. The best marketing does.

    There's a lot of truth to that, and Microsoft is the best example.

    However, what we're seeing with iDevices is that it's not just the device that counts, but the total user experience (or 'ecosystem'.) Apple devices may not have the best technical/nerd specs (CPU speed, etc), but it delivers the best overall value to the consumer.

    This, of course, does have risks. A major screw-up for Apple (like the Microsoft Vista debacle for Microsoft) could have a disproportionate impact on the 'halo effect.'

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