I came across an interesting blog post, written in March of this year by HP’s own Phil McKinney, on how best to time the release of innovative technology. It’s a fascinating read for anyone who wants to better understand HP’s thinking in terms of, say, the release of a webOS tablet. It also demonstrates why such decisions are rarely easily made.
Talking specifically about the HP Slate, Mr. McKinney says:
I’m a firm believer that the difference between a good idea and a great idea is getting the timing right. There are a number of items to consider when deciding when is the right time to bring an innovation to market including:
- Is there a technology coming that will transform the experience/market?
- Are customers ready to accept and adopt this innovation?
- Is the sales channel mature enough to support the introduction of a new innovation?
- Can you bring it all together at a price that will drive broad adoption?
It takes management discipline (and support) to hold off. The constant mantra of “not yet” can wear on even the most resilient of executives. But getting the timing wrong can mean being way ahead of the market and the result is a quickly forgotten bump in the innovation landscape.
Obviously, Apple’s release of the iPad was a huge factor in HP’s apparent decision to delay the Slate and to purchase Palm and webOS. We now know that HP will be releasing the Slate for specific enterprise customers, and that a webOS tablet will be released in Q1 of 2011 for the general consumer market.
However, he also provides a timeline showing that, in fact, the Slate was not a response to the impeding iPad, but had been contemplated by HP for some time. And of course, HP has long offered Tablet PC’s based on Microsoft’s platform by the same name, a product category that, while not as popular as the iPad’s new kind of “consumption device,” is arguably vastly more capable.
Simply put, HP has been working on the concept since 1998, and will only be releasing toward the end of 2010. That should provide some perspective to folks who want their next webOS smartphone right now. There are just too many factors involved for such a decision to be easy—or, to please everyone, particularly loyal enthusiasts like the webOS community.