Hey, HP board, how do you like them Apples?

commentary Three years after its release, Apple's iPad continues to erode PC sales. HP's new board members will have to deal with the slow-motion collapse of the PC market -- partly because of the popularity of the iPad.

HP ElitePad 900: Not exactly an iPad killer
HP ElitePad 900: Not exactly an iPad killer Hewlett-Packard

commentary Back in 2011, Hewlett-Packard's chairman Ray Lane was photographed using an Apple MacBook Air as he was trying to turn HP around. Personal preference speaks volumes about HP and the fate of the PC industry.

Lane stepped down today as chairman of HP just after, coincidentally, Gartner released a report forecasting dim prospects for the PC industry.

Things seem to get dimmer with each forecast, as the tablet -- which means Apple's iPad for the most part -- takes a bigger bite out of PC sales.

Here's what Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, said today:

While there will be some individuals who retain both a personal PC and a tablet...most will be satisfied with the experience they get from a tablet as their main computing device. As consumers shift their time away from their PC to tablets and smartphones, they will no longer see their PC as a device that they need to replace on a regular basis.

That last part is pretty scary for the world's largest PC company. Not to mention Microsoft.

"The usage model of the consumer has changed because of the tablet," Craig Stice of IHS-iSuppli told me in a phone interview. "People are now holding onto their old PCs" because buying a new (cheaper) tablet satisfies most of a consumer's needs, he said.

And what does HP offer right now to beat back the iPad? One of HP's highest profile consumer devices is the hybrid tablet-laptop Envy x2 . But that just got a price cut of about $250 , an indication of lackluster sales.

Then there's the ElitePad 900. It starts at $699 and ranges up to $1,196. Pretty much pricing it out of the iPad market.

Some Fortune 500 companies will opt for HP's ElitePad because it's aimed squarely at business and runs Windows. But, I'm guessing, not nearly enough to turn the tide.

HP's new Android tablet offers some hope, though. The Slate 7 is a $169 Android 4.1 tablet that will be available this month. And I expect more tablets like this from HP this year.

"I hope one day people will say 'this is as cool as HP', not 'as cool as Apple,'" former CEO Leo Apotheker told the BBC in 2011.

Let's hope HP's new board members can drive it closer to that vision in 2013.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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