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HP ElitePad 900

HP Explains Why You Don't Want The iPad, Surface

In August, a group of top HP reps and product directors gathered in New York to show off the company's newest devices: laptops, tablets, desktops, hybrid PCs. But its flagship product—or at least the device HP reps spent the most typing selling to attendees—was the HP ElitePad 900, a 10-inch Windows 8 tablet designed for business. With a slew of business-friendly accessories (keyboard, docking station, Stylus pen), HP believes its slate can finally compete with the iPad in the corporate world. But what about Microsoft's Surface tablet?

Surface

Like most hardware makers in the space, HP's interest in the enterprise space is indicative of its larger struggles to keep pace with Apple in the consumer tablet market. Long have hardware manufacturers (or OEMs) relied on corporate customers to boost sales: Not only did these customers value low-cost products over high-end design, but their employees depended on legacy applications, meaning programs built for older systems that required backward compatibility to function—programs that would be too costly to migrate over to a new platform like Apple's. In this environment, Windows-based PCs thrived. But that's all changing thanks to the iPad. Apple's best-selling tablet has dominated the enterprise space—one recent study suggested the iPad accounted for 97.3% of tablets activated by enterprise customers last quarter, a strong indication that even stodgy business clients value quality design and user experience.

Apple now sells more iPads than HP does PCs. Mike Hockey, worldwide public relations manager for HP’s multi-billion-dollar personal systems group, describes this sea change: "Let's be honest, there's a certain expectation in the market—the iPad has set an expectation for what a tablet should be. We know that you have to design something that looks good. At the end of the day, nobody wants to be embarrassed to pull something out—it's got to have a consumer look and feel. If you pull out something butt-ugly these days, end users will revolt. It used to be, 'You take it; you're going to like it.' That's changed. It really has. You got the IT guys saying, 'I need X, Y, and Z.' But you have the end user going, 'Man, screw you, I'm going to bring in my own device.' So if you're not even close to the iPad, then why even bother?"

It's a radical change in thinking for HP. Only last year, the company was trying to sell me on the HP Slate 2, a super-thick, Windows 7-based tablet that had barely any of the functionality of the iPad yet sold at an alarmingly high price of $699. At the time, Hockey and his colleague Kyle Thornton, category manager for emerging products at HP, argued that due to the reliance of the enterprise on Windows and legacy applications, the HP Slate 2 would be a huge hit in the market, despite its deficiencies and appalling design. "To be honest with you, we've had many customers look at [the iPad], but they're not necessarily looking for that whiz-bang experience," Thornton said then. "Let me tell you, for a lot of customers, the Windows 7-based [Slate] performance is more than enough for what they're looking for… Now, the CEO might get the iPad, but for the 500 or 2,000 [employee] deployment? They're not going to get iPads. They're going to get something like this [Slate 2]."

Slate 2

In other words, the CEO gets the good device, while the employees get the cheap device. Look how much has changed: "I agree with you: Windows 7 was not the answer," Hockey told me over the summer. "I'm not going to argue with you. I'd be the first to tell you that Windows 7 on a tablet was not a very strong product. But we think that with this new generation of Windows 8, touch-enabled devices, there's an opportunity now."

All told, the ElitePad 900 is a pretty sleek device on its own. At 9.2mm and 1.5 pounds, the ElitePad is actually more appealing than many of HP's consumer offerings. The company hopes the tablet's accessories will set it apart: a two-piece Smart Jacket system provides extra battery life and ports; a docking station provides additional features such as USB and HDMI connectivity; and the company is also offering an external keyboard and Stylus pen.

However, these accessories are also the ElitePad's downfall: The thick and heavy jacket system is anything but Smart; the docking station provides little differentiation; and the external keyboard is a bulky slab of hardware that doesn't match the device's lightweight design, while the Stylus pen doesn't even attach intuitively to the tablet itself when not needed. (Because the Stylus pen was foolishly designed thicker than the tablet itself, you actually need an external cover just to store the pen.) Compare that to Microsoft's Surface tablet, which features a sturdy, built-in kickstand as well as a super-thin attachable keyboard that doubles as a cover. Why would corporate customers want all the additional clutter of accessories if Microsoft's offering eliminates the baggage?

"Because you may have a situation where you may need more options—the [Surface] might not be enough for you," Hockey says. "If all I'm looking for is a notebook, well, I might as well buy a notebook. If I'm just going to carry the Surface with a kickstand, what's the point? We've got notebooks that are down to 2.5 pounds now. I don't know what the Surface is with the kickstand—it's right at 2 pounds I think. If i'm going to have the kickstand and keyboard all the time, and that's really all I'm using it for, then why not just go buy a lightweight notebook or ultrabook?"

HP ElitePad 900

It's a talking point HP was clearly prepared to deliver. Only several weeks ago, HP CEO Meg Whitman knocked the Surface, which she said "doesn't function like a laptop," adding that "it lacks a keyboard you can do real work on." Whitman argued the Surface is more so geared toward the consumer space, while HP's offering will compete in the enterprise market.

One thing is for sure: HP can no longer rely on the same formula and advantages it has for decades. High-end design and user experience are now incredibly important, even in the corporate world. And with Apple's rocketing success in the enterprise space, HP and other hardware makers can't depend on Windows forever to sell its products.

"You and I can debate whether iPads belong in the enterprise, and absolutely, yes, they've made some in-roads," Hockey says. "But if you're an old dinosaur, and you want to continue with your legacy apps, or if you're willing to invest in something new, we can do that. We're the best of both worlds."

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38 Comments

  • Tim

    Sounds like little to no ethnographic research has been done. This is embarrassing for HP. Sounds like they want to bring back the Courier. 

  • martin wezowski

    How did HP become this blind - They actually lie to them selves, that just can not be profitable. 

  • Choclinda

    It's also the name HP...it has the sound of the 70's.... today everything has to be hip and HP is anything but HIP... as for MEG feh! 

  • Chris Reich

    I think it comes down to whether you are a "Looker" or a "Doer" --- The CEO may want to check up-to-date sales figures as a "Looker" or read email or search for something online. The "Doer", one who needs to get work done, can't do much on a tablet. Sure, you can edit an important presentation but can't really build that presentation on a tablet. And if you are in finance, try working on a complex spreadsheet on a tablet.

    No, tablets are still just for Lookers.

  • Kkunk54

    I'm even less inclined to buy HP products now that I've learned that they haven't written drivers for some of their hardware like my venerable 4470 Scanner! 

  • frankwick

    This HP tablet is already dead for most organizations if they are still powering it with an Atom processor.  If this is still true, they cannot complete with the likes of a Surface Pro on specs. It will be a frustrating experience.

  • charles jernigan

    I very much disagree.  I have purchased one and have 3 more on order and plan to deploy them to all of my Network techs in my organization.  The surface pro and other i5 based devices may be faster but they wont make an 8 hour day without a charge.  I can walk around my facility 12 hours RDPing to servers with my Helpdesk software open, answering emails up and away from my office.  Oh and this elitepad is serviceable.  Can't do that with the all powerful i5 crowd.... HP was thinking about work, Microsoft was thinking about hip music beats, watch the commercials, they are silly... The elitepad is functional and well designed, I love mine.  Great job HP.

  • Peter Jacobsen

    I have an Elitepad 900 G1, 64Gb with 3G, the largest model. It is way to slow for me. I have the 2013 MS Office running on the device. My biggest problem is, that I often have problems turning on the device. Leaving Work I take it out of the dock, slide it into the productivity jacket.Later when I want to use the device, its turned of, and often I have to do a reset, pressing both the home and on button.
    Am I the only one here sick and tired of this expensive toy?

  • Steven M Lucas

    HP Slate 2 lacks innovation, lacks solar panel edges to charge your device while in use or just sitting on the coffee table, it lacks the beautiful HD pictures of Bing, it lacks today's available technology. Who the heck do they have working up there. Bring in the Pike place Starbucks Coffee, Google search todays latest superconductive wiring, solar panels, design concepts on Behance.net and stop messing around with America's market once and for all. For goodness sake people. Where are the visionaries. And why are you posting a contest / job posting on your career website for all the visionaries that know what its like to struggle all through their life up to their mid 20's and who have a passionate drive for entrepreneurship and hire candidates like that whom have a developer's perspective, with a customer's feel of things regarding whats modern to the eye and whats technologically advanced above the rest. And then set the advertisement as the why and not the what. People wait, & wait, & wait in line for Starbucks for the lifestyle or aka the why, not the what, aka the coffee, Starbucks has only one Barista production line per store, as where Panera bread has two and much faster service. But I prefer the Starbucks Brand, and Lifestyle. I feel important when I walk into Starbucks. I patiently wait in line, hoping that my loyalty will one day pay off for Starbucks to remodel their Barista Production Stations for having more than just one Barista Station for making the drinks. 

  • Aaron

    HP talking about their gear reminds of Sabre on The Office trying to market "The Pyramid"!  Harness the power of the Pyramid!

  • Chevll

    Every time I'm looking at purchasing a computer/tablet/laptop, I shy away from HP all together. Their products are bulky, and have absolutely no inspiration to them. If I was impressed with Apple, I would have most definitely jumped on
    that bandwagon a long time ago; however, I don't agree with their greedy
    dictator-esque marketing. Hockey's comment as to how it used to be "You take it; you're going to like it." describes Apple currently, in my opinion. I'm too independent, and honestly frugal, to spend money on a product that is going to change in the slightest possible way six months from now. Therefor, Asus is my go to. They have thoroughly impressed me with their sleek designs, fantastic interface, and amazing personalization. Which leads me to answer Hockey: The reason Windows will never carry HP to a better foot-hold is because HP is not the only option with Windows- the end. 

  • Nomail

    Hmm for a businessthe ipad is a lost cause, no possibilities to run our software, management is non existent (yes comes with 2012 svr SP1 and MSCCM 2012) The Elitepad 900 is all that, the business persons tablet with all security, speed, flexibility, multiuser accounts, interchanable battery and so on
    no Apple product can compete in the business market without those must haves for companies. just my 2 cents

  • eric_shinn

    "...if you're an old dinosaur, and you want to continue with your legacy apps, or if you're willing to invest in something new, we can do that. We're the best of both worlds."
    If you're an old dinosaur, the plastic on your CRT monitor has grown yellow with time as it still loads Windows XP or even 2000 - because it's always ran the legacy apps well enough for the job for 10+ years. If you're willing to invest in something new (in other words NOT bound by Microsoft's plops) you get an iPad. Apple's iPad is the dominant player in the market by far - so it's the least amount of risk. Android may be a decent operating system, but it's extremely young when you consider that iOS is OSX slimmed down - which originaly came from NeXT. The OS has a history. Google is primarily search and banner ads. Apple has always been hardware and software.

  • frankwick

    to call iOS a slimmed down OSX is like calling Cher a slimmed down Liberace.  They both do the same thing (I'm talking about the operating systems now) but really have very little in common.  Apple marketing will you tell they run on the same kernel, but that's where it stops.  To your point, Android runs on Linux.  Now, starting with Windows Phone, it runs the same kernel as Windows 8 itself.  In a few years, Windows (big version), Windows tablet, Windows Phone, and Xbox will all be the same operating system.

  • gbacoder

    from a tech point of view they are very similar. i can tell you this as I am a programmer of both of them. Most of the internal workings are much alike. This is the point that was being made. The external design is very different, but it's using all the code over from OSX. The real issue is that Apple has had longer to find tune OSX on the iOS. Whereas google have had less time tuning Linux on the Android. Apple first developed the iPhone in secret for a while. Google were also slow to catch onto the fact that this tuning was very important on a phone. Jobs has always tuned things, so he just did it as normal from the start. This with luck(or you could say he knew) happened to really be needed on phones more than desktops. That's my 2 cents. 

  • Anonymous

    "Android may be a decent operating system, but it's extremely young when you consider that iOS is OSX slimmed down - which originaly came from NeXT."

    By your logic, Android is not extremely young - quite the opposite in fact - when you consider that Android is based on Linux.