On Wednesday, Hewlett-Packard announced its TouchPad tablet with specs amazingly close to Apple’s iPad. Even though it won’t ship until this summer, it’s possible to draw some interesting conclusions from the specs alone.
First, the physical size of the TouchPad is almost exactly the same as the iPad’s, within millimeters. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
The other major tablets that have been announced go their own way in physical size, screen size, aspect ratio and resolution. One would expect that. If HP, counting on a resurgence in vision and its own brand, had its own goals, technologies and agendas, you’d reasonably think that its physical characteristics would be somewhat different than the iPad as well. That’s a typical situation, but in this case, perhaps not so clever.
I think HP did something smart. The TouchPad is being designed as a perfectly adequate, physical substitute for the iPad. Laying on a table, it looks like an iPad. It can even use some of the same stands, like the Keynamics iPad stand. In those environments where individuals, schools, the government and the military have already made physical arrangements for the iPad: shipping, storage, travel, deployment, the TouchPad literally fits right in.
A good example would be a military contract for a new unmanned surveillance aircraft. Hangars are designed, runways laid, and towing & refueling equipment is subcontracted at a secret forward location. The first contractor swoops in and wins the first contract. But later, a competitor wants into the game. Would you design a competitive aircraft that requires the customer to redesign and rebuild everything? HP understands this kind of thinking, and it may have even extended to the decision about the name.
The iPad has a 24.8 Watt-hour battery at 3.75 Volts. Using Watts = Volts * Amps, that means a 6.6 Amp-hour battery. The H-P TouchPad has a 6.3 Amp-hour battery, cited by H-P as 6,300 milliAmp-hours (mAh) for the large number effect.
Given that the Snapdragon (APQ8060) uses about the same power as the iPad’s A4 (0.5 Watt) [see Slashdot and DailyTech] and that the screen size and resolution and low end storage are identical, for an overall average power usage of 2.5 Watts, I suspect that the battery life of the TouchPad will be about the same as the iPad, 10 hours.
Why didn’t HP didn’t announce that on Wednesday? Maybe they still have some optimizations to do, and didn’t want to box themselves into an unnecessarily modest claim. On the other hand, what’s wrong with under promising and over delivering?
End User Price
Given that the TouchPad is almost identical to the iPad in size, weight, screen size, resolution and battery capacity, one might guess that the sum of the component parts, the bill of materials, would be about the same. Therefore, HP should be able sell the entry model (16 GB) for the same price as the iPad, US$499.
Somehow, I have a hard time believing that HP has the same buying power as Apple, with its multi-billion dollar contracts for Flash memory and displays from Samsung and others. Apple has already sold 14 million iPads and probably has 10 million more iPad 2s in the pipeline for April. How can HP get the same terms from parts suppliers at this point?
My guess is that HP, knowing this, saw no reason to announce the end user price on Wednesday. The company had to make the announcement with plenty of lead time to get developers on board. That takes about four months. What’s the point in letting tech columnists beat them up for four months?
Meanwhile HP could do some selected, favorable benchmarks that show the TouchPad is faster than the iPad. Then, at rollout, the marketing campaign could say that the TouchPad is more expensive because it’s faster. Of course sites like Anandtech.com might do an extensive analysis that reveals the whole truth, but HP’s ad campaign would be the louder voice. My guess: US$579 - $599.