HP positions TouchPad as enterprise play, not iPad killer

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Hewlett-Packard is positioning its just-launched TouchPad webOS tablet not necessarily as a device that will dethrone Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad from the top of the tablet heap, but as an enterprise-friendly device, competing more heavily with Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) PlayBook.

HP touchpad

HP TouchPad

The Wi-Fi-only version of the TouchPad went on sale Friday amid a flurry of mixed reviews, many of which praised the webOS interface but also said the tablet was sluggish at times compared with the iPad 2. So far, HP is shrugging off the negative comments, which it said it will address with software updates over time.

Instead of trying to supplant Apple in the tablet market, HP is focusing its attention on where it can make the most impact. "We think there's a better opportunity for us to go after the enterprise space and those consumers that use PCs," Richard Kerris, HP's vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations, said in an interview with the The Loop. "This market is in its infancy and there is plenty of room for both of us [HP and Apple] to grow."

RIM sold 500,000 PlayBook tablets in its most recent quarter, which the BlackBerry vendor targeted mainly at enterprise customers. Apple has said that 75 percent of the Fortune 500 companies are testing or deploying iPad within their enterprises.

HP is busy talking up the enterprise capabilities of the TouchPad, including Wi-Fi authentication and security features.  There are also VPN clients available on the tablet: IPSEC VPN and Cisco Any Connect VPN. In an interview with Network World, David Gee, vice president of marketing and enterprise solutions for HP's Palm Global Business Unit, admitted that such features are "table stakes," but said the company has a broader enterprise strategy.

"Since we have one of the world's largest [IT] service organizations and software for IT management and security, for application development quality assurance and security, and experience in how we run data centers, the real opportunity is in asking, 'What lessons can we learn from all this and then build into webOS?'" Gee said.

Kerris said HP's focus now is on growing the still small webOS developer community, which he said has a lot of momentum. The wider strategy is to create a large ecosystem of webOS devices, including tablets, smartphones, printers and PCs.

For more:
- see this The Loop article
- see this Network World article

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