HP TouchPad seeks to exploit iPad Achilles' heel

Hewlett-Packard VARs: WebOS can cut the “white cord” of iTunes dependency.

LAS VEGAS -- Hewlett-Packard Co. and its partners said the HP TouchPad can win over iPad business users who have had their fill of iTunes “tyranny.”

Many business users in love with their Apple iPads have forced their corporate IT to accept the consumer devices, but even those same users say iPad’s reliance on iTunes has its drawbacks.

ITunes serves as the sole on-ramp (and bottleneck) for iPad apps. Any kind of application that runs on the iPad must travel from iTunes, across Apple Inc.’s proprietary white cord into the device.

HP is banking that its partners –which it is encouraging to develop mobile practices around WebOS—can convince those customers to cut that white cord and go with the upcoming HP TouchPad.

HP: Businesses need to cut Apple’s white cord
Several attendees of this week’s HP Americas Partners Conference think they can do just that. “I think there’s a real market for a  business-oriented  touch device that will work with desktop peripherals as needed,” said Rick Chernick, CEO of Green Bay, Wisc.-based Camera Corner/Connecting Point, a long-time HP partner.

HP showed off demo devices on the show floor here. Three models—with 16, 32 and 64 gigs of memory—are due sometime “this summer.” One HP exec said to expect a first WiFi-only model to debut in June, along with the upcoming WebOS 3.0.

Two partner execs at the show said HP has a shot at this market, but it will be a tough row to hoe. Pulling out their iPads to illustrate the point, they said the HP device along with the Motorola Xoom and the Cisco Cius are all nice, but none of them have as nice a look and feel as the iPad.

Pushing WebOS as business-friendly iOS alternative
HP channel chief Stephen DiFranco said HP is dead serious about this TouchPad/WebOS push while recognizing the head start Apple has with its consumer-oriented tablet.

“The feedback is there isn’t a sense of security with an iPad and that is a corporation’s major concern. With WebOS you don’t need a machine with a white cord to tie in and authorize your device. WebOS is truly cloud based. With WebOS I can take my SIM card and put it into another Palm and in five minutes have my complete calendar, Outlook, all the apps I’ve downloaded and not even need to be tied to a PC,” DiFranco noted.

In an HP Americas Partner Conference session here Tuesday, Todd Achilles, an HP VP focused on telco providers, led a crowded session on the TouchPad as a corporate device. WebOS, he said, will provide a clean, secure way for IT to push out corporate apps to authorized users. “You can just push a URL out to your employees only, they click on the download and get their proprietary app. It’s a very clean way to manage employee devices,” he noted.

WebOS 3.0 will support 128-bit SSL encryption and “most of” Microsoft’s ActiveSync profiles, he said.  The new TouchPad will ship with Quickoffice to allow viewing and editing of Microsoft Office documents, an Open Search feature to find corporate resources, plus wireless printing.

Karen Appleton, VP of business development with Box.Net, an ISV that develops content management applications for such devices, said she has high hopes for HP because of the corporate marketing and sales push it can put behind TouchPad.

She doesn’t see ITunes as a negative for Apple at all. The bigger problem is that HP can bring the full force of its own business sales force (and its partners) to move TouchPads into business accounts whereas Apple has “barely started” an enterprise sales force, she said.

Leigh Carpenter, director of strategic services for San Diego-based Nth Generation Computing Inc., said she’s very interested in the new machines but it’s not clear yet how WebOS will do. “It will be hard to beat the iPad,” she said. 

WebOS, despite its Palm Computing pedigree, is not the only contender to the iPad/iOS mantle: IDC this week projected that Microsoft Windows 7 Phone will surpass iPhone sales by 2015, although that news prompted skepticism.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Barbara Darrow, Senior News Director at [email protected], or follow us on twitter.

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