HP might as well stand for “helluvalot of printers.” (Don’t worry about where the “O” came from.) The company is relying on ePrint, which allows users to print via an HP Printer, to differentiate the Slate 7, its first Android-based tablet. Because, you know, the first thing someone says when they start using a tablet is “Man, I really wish I could print something with this, if only to slap our all-digital future right across its face.”
Alberto Torres, the head of HP’s efforts to enter the mobile market, tells The Verge that HP is “targeting the consumer who really wants an entertainment solution” with the Slate 7. The $169 device, Torres admits, “won’t be competitive with something that’s $300 today.” So HP is really betting on two things with the Slate 7: that consumers will settle for a low-end device because it’s cheap, and that the ability to work with an HP-built printer matters to tablet users who want a device built for entertainment.
I’ve argued against the “cheap” mantra before, and the idea that ePrint will make a difference to tablet users “who really want an entertainment solution” is laughable. Not because of the feature itself, which could come in handy for students and writers or other people who still need to print content, but because it shows that even HP’s efforts to embrace mobile are stained with printer ink.
Perhaps HP is suffering from right-feature-wrong-message-itis, a scourge that most recently claimed HTC and its new HTC One. HP isn’t saddling novel features with childish names, as HTC has, but instead seems to be unable to speak to consumers. Sure, it got the buzzwords right — “Entertainment solution? Take my money!” — but so far it hasn’t done much else. Consider the ePrint copy on the Slate 7’s product page:
With HP ePrint, you can effortlessly print photos for easy sharing.
So, printing photos is an easier sharing method than, say, email? Instagram? Facebook? Twitter? Hell, a shared Dropbox folder? Even though ePrint requires an active Internet connection, an HP-built, web-enabled printer, and email capability? Welcome to pre-mobile photo-sharing hell, millennials!
HP then shifts tactics and starts talking up the Slate 7’s Beats Audio integration. Now, this is something that consumers might care about — even if the benefits of Beats Audio are questionable at best — but it’s halfway down the damn product page, beneath ePrint and other specifications and just above an image of two guys using Slate 7 on a train.
That’s HP’s idea of an “entertainment solution.” A device where the ability to print without a third-party application — if you’re on WiFi, if you have a web-enabled printer built by HP, and if you can send an email — comes before integration with a recognizable brand that might actually lead to a more enjoyable experience.
Welcome back to the tablet market, HP. I don’t think you’re going to like it here.