Minutes after the Wall Street Journal reported that HP plans to spin off its PC business, I'm already getting press inquiries. There's still a lot we don't know, and I hope we'll learn more on the earnings call tonight. Based on what we know now, here's my take on what product strategists at HP are thinking:
HP's PC product strategy is squeezed by two macro-trends: The commodification of the PC market, led by Asian manufacturers like Asus, and the transition to a post-PC era, led by Apple, Inc. (formerly Apple Computer). HP is the biggest PC manufacturer in the world, but its position will rapidly decline if it can't adjust its product strategy to combat both trends.
It makes sense that HP shareholders don’t want its low-margin PC business dragging down its high-margin enterprise services business. As for HP’s chances as a standalone PC manufacturer, it’s tough to be a PC maker in a post-PC world. HP’s competition is Apple on the high end, which has justified higher margins based on non-hardware offerings: service (Genius Bar, Apple Store reps), channel (Apple Store), and software (iTunes/App Store). On the other end, all of HP’s competitors, other than Dell, are based in Asia and have very different manufacturing and labor economics. HP has been caught up in a race to the bottom as the PC market has commodified. Now it needs either to become comfortable with commodification or to build out the elements of an ecosystem to enable true competition with Apple.
Two words were on everyone's lips today when it came to tablet talk: Honeycomb and LTE, the next-generation much faster network billed as "4G." Honeycomb is Google's first tablet-optimized version of its Android operating system, which will run on tablets like the Motorola Xoom, LG G-Slate, and Asus Eee Pad Transformer. Honeycomb isn't fully operational yet so it's hard to say how well these tablets will perform; early demos show a user experience that looks similar to the Palm WebOS "deck of cards" metaphor for switching between applications.
The Honeycomb tablets have features the iPad doesn't (yet) have, like front and back cameras for video chatting and HDMI outputs for connecting your tablet to your TV. Add in the superspeedy LTE capabilities, which we'll see in tablets in the second half of 2011, and here's what you get: better video and better gaming experiences. Think Skyping and G-chatting with less latency, watching videos with less stuttering, seeing more and more video on sites like Facebook. Not to mention more complex, real-time gaming: Nvidia demoed a concept for cross-platform gaming where you could play a game on your Android tablet with a friend on a PC or Sony PS3 game console.
As Apple announces it has sold more than 2 million iPads (no indication of US/global split), would-be competitors are unveiling their tablets at Computex in Taiwan. With so many products in the mix (and so few on the market), it can be hard for a product strategist to keep up with it all. So here’s Forrester’s quick guide to the tablets that are taking on Apple in the near future (note: this list doesn’t include devices that may have a tablet form factor but are primarily eBook readers, such as Acer’s planned 7” Android tablet. It also excludes tablets that are more rumor than reality. And I know just by putting together this list I will leave some off, and if that’s the case leave a comment and tell me which ones you think I should add. Okay, enough caveats!):
“Curation is the positive flip side of Apple’s locked-down approach, decried as a major, negative development in computing by many observers, present company included. Who would have thought that in 2010, so many people would pay good money for a computer that only runs approved software?
It runs counter to the idea, prized by geeks, that computing equals freedom. If it were Microsoft doing this, we’d all be storming the Gates with torches and pitchforks.”
I don’t think that you have to exercise Apple’s level of control (e.g., not letting developers use third-party tools like Flash, not approving apps that threaten your business model, etc.) to create a compelling, curated experience — an experience in which content and functionality are deliberately restricted to serve a new form factor like a touchscreen tablet or a wearable device.
In the weeks since the iPad launch, there’s been a spate of rumors, “leaks,” and PR pushes around would-be competitors to the Apple iPad. By the end of the year, consumers will be able to choose from an array of multimedia touchscreen tablets including tablets that: