HP Goes Pro With Mobile Business Strategy

HP has made a few attempts to get a foothold in the mobile market, but it hasn't found a winning formula -- until, possibly, now. The company just showered the enterprise with eight new business-focused products, including a 12-inch tablet and smartpen combo, and several industry-specific devices. HP is building ecosystems targeting healthcare, field services, retail and education.

HP on Tuesday unveiled eight new business-focused mobile products: six specialized tablets, a 2-in-1 device and a tablet case. The company also announced new strategic relationships with partners and independent software vendors, and a slew of accessories.

“Our goal with this announcement is to showcase an ecosystem that’s easy to navigate and offers customers the devices and software to easily access, create and manipulate data, along with services that tie components together to help increase employee productivity, improve business workflows, and enhance customer connections,” an HP spokesperson said in a statement provided to the E-Commerce Times by Voce PR rep Molly P. Wade.

HP is “very cautious these days about the types of products they release,” said Susan Schreiner, senior editor and analyst at C4 Trends.

“Given the Microsoft Surface tablets and Android tablets, they must believe there’s some reason to [expand] their mobility line,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

What HP Is Offering

HP unveiled the Pro Slate 8 and Pro Slate 12, high-definition, commercial-grade Android tablets running Android 4.4. They have 8- and 12-inch displays, respectively.

The tablets come with the HP Duet Pen, which uses Qualcomm Snapdragon digital pen technology to write both on paper and on the tablet screen.

The HP Elite x2 1011 G1 is an 11.6-inch 2-in-1 device that was tested to military specs for durability. It runs Windows 8 Pro. Accessories include a WiGig enterprise wireless dock, a cover, a lightweight travel keyboard and an optional Wacom pen.

This “really is designed for the business traveler,” Schreiner remarked.

Other devices unveiled: the HP Pro Tablet 408 G1, an 8-inch business tablet running Windows 8 Pro and based on an Intel Atom processor; the HP ElitePad 1000 G2 Healthcare Tablet, which has an antimicrobial treatment applied and has a barcode reader to help reduce the risk of data entry errors; the HP ElitePad 1000 G2 Rugged Tablet for mobile workers in manufacturing or in the field, also with a barcode reader; the HP Pro Tablet 10 EE for the education market; and the HP Retail Case for ElitePad.

Business vs. Consumer Market

HP’s attempts to crack the mobile consumer market famously flopped — its webOS-based TouchPad tablet was scrapped less than two months after its debut in July 2011. The company also dropped its various webOS smartphones due to weak demand. Consumers clearly were not interested in what HP was selling.

“HP has been trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up,” said Mike Jude, manager of the Stratecast consumer communication services program at Frost & Sullivan.

“I’d say the new line of tablets is great, but why offer them?” wondered Jude asked.

“Makers are essentially giving tablets away — I got a wireless speaker from Verizon the other day and they threw in a tablet,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “What’s HP’s value proposition in offering all these devices?”

Industry-Specific Ecosystems

It appears highly unlikely that HP’s intention is to compete with cheap consumer-oriented tablets. In fact, it is building ecosystems to support specific industries — healthcare, field services, retail and education — where it sees the most potential gains.

Building an ecosystem “is smart and will definitely help in the enterprise space,” Schreiner said.

Rumors that Apple is planning to unveil a 12-inch business-oriented tablet and a digital pen to use with it have been making the rounds, raising the possibility that HP’s Pro Slate 12 could get an inside track.

“Apple is Apple,” Schreiner said. “I think this could potentially take share from Microsoft.”

That said, whether Apple can command as much enthusiasm in the enterprise as it enjoys in its consumer stronghold won’t become clear until it launches its business-focused tablet later this year.

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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