HP will resume tablet manufacturing

HP Windows 8 tablet
Potential HP TouchPad running Windows 8? (Image mock-up)

At the Global Influencer Summit 2012 this week, HP showed off several new HP Ultrabooks™, but chief executive Meg Whitman also reveled that the company will restart production of consumer tablets. Unlike the previous HP TouchPad running webOS, these new tablets will be using the upcoming Windows 8 operating system from Microsoft.

The tablet strategy was scrapped last year by the current CEO Leo Apotheker after disappointing sales figures, and at the same time Apotheker caused a stir when he decided to refocus HP on higher-margin businesses like cloud computing and software. It seemed that HP might leave the Personal Computer market all together. After just 11 months on the job, Hewlett-Packard’s board ousted CEO Leo Apotheker, replacing him with Meg Whitman, former CEO at eBay.

She might have been a controversial choice at the time, but Meg Whitman have halted many of the big changes Leo Apotheker was trying to push trough, and even rolled back some all together to turn things around. With a new line of HP Ultrabooks™ on the way, it seems the company is refocusing their efforts on the Personal Computer market, and now they are even talking about making tablets again. It’s clear that Hewlett-Packard is ready to fight back against slumping PC sales, and looking for a rematch in the tablet market as well.

Meg Whitman said that restarting the tablet production is a strategic move aimed at capitalizing on the extraordinary growth in tablet sales. Todd Bradley, the executive vice-president for printing and personal systems, revealed that HP’s Windows 8 tablets will come equipped with cloud-based technology, enabling users to share and store content online between different devices.

The TouchPad went on sale in early July 2011, but had a hard time competing against Apple’s iPad and tablets running on Google’s Android OS. The TouchPad was criticized for an underdeveloped software ecosystem, and also the slow performance of the device. Soon after the TouchPad launched, HP was offering $50 rebates to boost sales, and even cut the price by $100. It all seemed to be in wain, and soon after it’s launch, HP announced they would stop the production of the TouchPad all together.

WebOS was introduced by Palm in January 2009 as the successor to Palm OS. HP acquired Palm for $1.2 billion in April 2010, and webOS was back then described as a key asset and motivation for the purchase. HP indicated it’s intention to develop the platform for use in multiple new products, including smartphones, tablet computers and printers.

Based on a Linux kernel, webOS had it’s share of fans, but the OS never got the support required from HP to mature. In December 2011 Hewlett-Packard announced they would release the webOS source code under an open-source license in the near future.

There is currently no information on when a Windows 8 tablet will be presented, or what type of hardware it will run on, but hopefully it will get a better chance in the market then it’s predecessor did. It seems that Hewlett-Packard with Meg Whitman at the helm have a clear vision for moving forward. Letting a long time partner like Microsoft focus on the OS and ecosystem, an instead put all efforts in making great hardware could be the recipe for success for a future HP tablet. This type of thinking sure have worked for the company in the past. Ironically this is a recipe Apotheker was trying to move away from, pun intended.