Well, Joe Desposito beat me to the punch with his blog, Tablet Wars Claim First Victim: HP TouchPad, but I wanted to take a slightly different look Hewlett-Packard's (HP) potential changes as it appears that HP may be looking to get out of the PC business, not just trashing its tablets HP Confirms Discussions with Autonomy Corporation plc Regarding Possible Business Combination; Makes Other Announcements.
First I want to talk about what might be done with almost a quarter million TouchPad tablets. How about dropping Android on it? I have not checked out a TouchPad other than at OfficeMax but the hardware specs could easily support it. The big problem is likely to be the closed environment from the BIOS on out that would deter all but the most determined hacker. That is a far cry from what the IBM PC delivered (see Where Is Your IBM PC? ) where the hardware and even the BIOS interface was well defined and readily available.
Now I assume that HP would follow suit and have clamped down on the TouchPad so no one could possibly hack it. These days everyone wants complete control over their hardware. Too bad because I suspect Android would be up and running on it already. It could have turned a rather embarrasing situation. HP put a lot of money into the TouchPad's launch compared to its anemic launch of the webOS-based smartphones.
Second, we have webOS. I suspect that it will tank worse than the TouchPad even though HP would like to license it. It is a nice platform but there is little reason for developers to select it. It is not as if embedded developers do not already have a set of choices that meet or exceed what webOS provides. In fact, webOS would probably not fit well with embedded applications outside of the mobile multimedia device which includes smartphones and tablets. There has been some allusion to automotive applications but platforms like QNX's, now part of Research In Motion, would eat it for lunch.
Finally we come to the PC side of the business that included the TouchPad. HP keeps following IBM down the primrose path. IBM and HP have been playing in the same space for decades. HP has the edge in printers while IBM's mainframes hold the computing high ground. IBM sold its PC business to Lenovo in 2004. It now looks like HP will follow. Too bad because HP hardware is very nice, well respected and spans a wide range of products. It can still make money. Outfits like Dell show that it can be done although from a bean counter perspective there are definitely higher margin opportunities that HP is part of.
In many ways, this could be a missed opportunity. Tablets have yet to make a major impact in the corporate space but that is changing. HP has a major foothold in that area and making software one of its major thrusts along with services would mesh well with this aspect. I suspect that the various groups within HP do not communicate along these lines so the type of tablet being supported would be irrelevant from some people's standpoint.
It will be interesting to see where HP winds up in a few years. I remember working on mainframe hardware and software design for Burroughs Corporation many years ago. Burroughs disappeared into Unisys that has also dropped out of the hardware business and is now a software service company.
In the meantime, let me know if you hear about Android running on the TouchPad. Its a great buy if there is software that could run on it past then end of the year.