Article: The HP TouchPad…and Baseball?

by on August 23, 2011

After watching all the news unfold over the weekend about the HP TouchPad’s discontinuation, its firesale, and the aftermath, I don’t entirely know why I’m disappointed. After all, it is an Apple competitor and was run out of the market by our favorite fruit-named tech company. Still, I think that I share the same regret most of the tech press shared—it was a pretty good product, with a lot of potential, and we wanted some good competition on the tablet front.

I think baseball is a sport that can be used as analogies for so many things in life. In one of the most disappointing seasons for Cub fans in recent memory, it’s hard not to draw parallels between the TouchPad’s short life and how many felt about the team’s progress in May and June of thus year. Alas, a baseball season really doesn’t end even if your team is doing poorly (although you may give up watching). Still, the analogies fall into about three categories—it’s background, support, and competition.


Just like any franchise that is not a new team, chances are that some familiar faces are carried over from year-to-year. You may have picked up or lost some free agents, worked on some off-season trades, or had new players called up, but the majority are usually the same. In the case of the TouchPad, Palm’s webOS is the same acclaimed operating system which made its debut on the Pre and Pixi smartphones. At the time, the weak part of the experience was the hardware—it felt cheap and lacking. When HP purchased Palm and showed off the idea of webOS on a tablet, people got excited. It seemed like the Palm people would really make this a great experience—at least in software. Contrast that with Google, whose Android version for tablets was nice, but not the most user-friendly.

On the hardware front, the TouchPad was an improvement, but still felt cheap, especially with a price similar to the iPad. In a world full of glass-screened, metal-or-plastic-backed slates, the TouchPad’s hardware didn’t really stand out. Think of the hardware as the pitching and the software as hitting—they work together, and if one is lacking, there’s a lot the other must overcome. The iPad would be a solid all-around team—giving up a few runs, but scoring more than the competition. That’s how teams consistently win one-run games.

In this case, the TouchPad is getting lots of runs (great software), but giving up way more (mediocre hardware).


In baseball, support comes from a few places—fans, the media, and the organization itself. The Cubs, while not having a World Series title in over 103 years, have tremendous support from fans, a pretty good TV deal (and lots of references in pop culture), and quite a bit of money to play around with (despite some disappointing contracts). They draw well because people want to see history, and buy into the franchise. The iPad has this support, too, but another item—success. Think of the iPad as the Red Sox or the Yankees—I hate to say it, but you have a loyal fan base, lots of TV coverage, money, and success, especially in recent years. The TouchPad would be more like the Nationals—it appears one day, some people are unsure it exists, the fan base is small, small market money (since it was a line item for HP), and not Earth-shattering sakes figures. Hey, I could’ve picked the Pirates.


The last component is how a product fares in the marketplace. You could have a pretty good team on paper, but injuries, poor play, and players aging could really hurt your season. This was the case with the TouchPad—it just didn’t sell.

But What About the Baseball Analogy?

While HP decided to kill the TouchPad, it would be like a team having a losing streak in May and giving up for the rest of the season. Heck, they may not even be a last-place team (that’s for RIM). The TouchPad was on the market for a little over a month and a half, hardly much. At least with the iPad, about a year between updates works. If HP had followed this model, the TouchPad was still so new. Word of mouth hadn’t gotten around, nor had enough updates been sent out to make the product feel lie something other than a 1.0 product.

Could you imagine your favorite team giving up by Memorial Day? Even I hadn’t given up on the Cubs by then during bad seasons…

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