Monday, November 7, 2005

What is HP Thinking?

Imagine for a moment that you had a product that was innovative and unique in a market comprised largely of products that were all essentially timid me-too offerings. Imagine that your product had garnered a substantial share of the market because of its these qualities, and that it had a user base that bordered on the fanatic in their support and enthusiasm for your product. Would you throw that product away in favor of yet another me-too product line?

Most of us would laugh at the suggestion, yet it appears that this is precisely what HP is doing with the TC1100. While originally the word was that the TC1100 would cease production at the end of 2005, apparently production has already ceased and the channel is drying up. Their other offering, the TC4200 is a fine machine, no question. But it is also just another convertible notebook with a digitizer in the screen. Cheap? Sure. Nice keyboard? No doubt. (Though Thinkpads still rule this area.) Great screen? Yep. Flexible? Not very. Exciting? No way.

This is a move that I simply don't understand.

But not only is HP making this huge mistake, they have compounded it with poor communication. For a long time, there was no more than a rumor that this was going to happen. Now I admit that I am not very well connected at HP, but no one I could reach there would make a clear statement on the subject until recently. (I have been dogging this since mid-summer.) When I asked one HP representative whether the TC1100 was going to be discontinued, the only response I got was that "HP remains committed to the Tablet PC platform." A pretty non-committal non-answer. Which, I guess, was telling in itself if I had been willing to see it.

Since that time, HP has confirmed that the TC1100 is history. But in addition, my sources tell me that there is a new model coming out around the start of Q2 2006. It looks as if it will weigh about 3 pounds and have a 12" screen. There is no more information available than that. They can't even say if it is a slate, a convertible or, we can only hope, a hybrid. If so, I'll gladly wear egg on my face for this posting. (Well, part of it. They still screwed up in the way they handled it.)

I don't want this posting to become a rant or, worse, a whine so I won't go on with it. But Mr. Hurd, if you are listening, this is one decision that HP needs to reconsider. The TC1100 is not perfect, but it is terrific. Tweak it, don't kill it. I'll be glad to give you suggestions on what is needed. Better yet, ask in the Tablet PC Buzz HP forum, the most active forum on the most active Tablet PC site--all because of the TC1100.