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Dell, HP, and Microsoft's Pathetic Anti-iPad Strategy: Whining

It must be tough to run old-line PC companies as Apple's (AAPL) iPad wipes the mat with them. HP (HPQ) and Dell remain on top in personal computer market share in the U.S., according to market research firm Gartner, but only by ignoring iPad sales. And Microsoft (MSFT) has seen its hardware partners chase after Android tablets in response, when, like HP, they're not trying to push their own operating systems.

Acer's founder says that his company should overhaul its operations because Apple has created a new market dynamic. And that's smart. When the market changes, you reexamine your business model. So what are Dell, HP, and Microsoft doing? Whining and hoping to derail Apple by casting public fear and doubt, like a spell at 2AM in a basement during a bad session of Dungeons and Dragons. The amount of attention the trio spent this week casting aspersions on the iPad was remarkable. The coincidence of timing alone might make you wonder whether there wasn't some sort of coordination going on.

HP whines that Apple isn't friendly to distribution channels
HP senior vice president Stephen DeWitt told CRN that HP's relationship to its distribution channel partners would ultimately make it a better bet than the iPad, especially when it rolls out webOS devices. "Apple's relationship with partners is transactional, completely. Apple doesn't have an inclusive philosophy of partner capabilities, and that's just absurd," he said.

Just two problems with DeWitt's arguments. One, channel partners may appreciate support from vendors, but ultimately they have to sell what people want. Right now, those pesky consumers do seem to want iPads. Training from HP isn't going to address that. What might would be a compelling product from HP, and that gets to the next point: there isn't one yet (although there might soon be one running webOS) and, even if there were, there is no significant number of third-party developers ready to create apps for its Palm-acquired operating system. Kinda hard to sell what isn't there.

Dell slams price and need to buy a mouse (seriously)
Dell's large enterprise and public organization marketing head Andy Lark claimed in an interview in Australia that the iPad would fail in enterprise businesses. He said, "I couldn't be happier that Apple has created a market and built up enthusiasm but longer term, open, capable and affordable will win, not closed, high price and proprietary."

Wait, high price? We're talking about the iPad, which made many people wonder how Apple set the cost so low. Lark said that the total cost of an iPad, when you counted all the other things you buy, would be $1500 or $1600 -- in other words, he claims that the accessories would cost as much as the device itself. He included not only a keyboard (which many people will never need), but a mouse. Seriously, has he even read about touch screens?

Microsoft says that it's all a fad
But the strangest statement came from Microsoft chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie, who said in a speech in Australia (Is there something in the water there?) that he didn't know if the iPad and other tablets would "remain with us or not." Mundie said that Microsoft is betting on a combination of smartphones and laptops as the way things will go:

"These are going to bump into one another a little bit and so today you can see tablets and pads and other things that are starting to live in the space in between. Personally I don't know whether that space will be a persistent one or not."
The essential issue is that Apple CEO Steve Jobs called it right when he said that people wanted a new category of device between a smartphone and a personal computer.That new category has upset the market because many people simply don't need a full PC or laptop for what they generally do.

But unlike Acer's founder, who grasps that the world changes, HP, Dell, and Microsoft try to fight technical natural selection. All three want things to be the way they once were. But that won't happen. Either the three companies, and others like them, will make the significant necessary changes to their business models, or they'll find that their products, not the iPad, will be the ones to wane.

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Image: morgueFile user nasirhkan.
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