Did HP Just Blow Up Android Tablet Pricing?

Includes: GOOG, HPQ
by: Larry Dignan

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) may have a very disruptive Android tablet on its hands courtesy of its eStation printer of all things.

Officially, HP isn’t in the Android tablet market. Unofficially, HP is going to be a real pain to Dell and its Streak and potentially Samsung’s Galaxy Tab.

I got to spend a few minutes with HP’s eStation printer—actually it’s the 7-inch print console that detaches and doubles as a tablet. A few key nuggets:

  • HP’s eStation console runs on Android 2.1 and will be upgraded to 2.2. That fact makes the whole WebOS equation even more curious. Why did HP buy Palm exactly?
  • HP’s stealth Android tablet gets battery life of 4 to 6 hours.
  • This “tablet” is connected to the Barnes & Noble e-book store.
  • The printer/tablet will be available by the holidays.
  • Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) has skinned the console for the most part. Gmail accessible via browser, but the Yahoo integration simplifies things a good bit.

Now there are a few limitations. For starters, HP’s tablet/console isn’t connected to the Android market, but any good geek can get around that one. And a print button is prominent everywhere. Meanwhile, the HP tablet is a bit clunky in the rear and seems slightly beefy.

But all of that said HP’s Android tablet is good enough (assuming HP works out a few responsiveness issues). And since it rides along with a $399 printer it may be pretty damaging to rivals. Why?

  • HP’s tablet is Wi-Fi only, just what some folks want. Samsung’s tablet is tethered to the carriers and the data plans for now.
  • HP is subsidizing its tablet to sell a printer (and the ink that goes with it). It’s quite genius. HP doesn’t have to negotiate carriers subsidies because ink profits can cut the tablet pricing.
  • The tablet console is probably about $250 or so if you assume the actual printer part is $150.
  • In any case, HP’s Android tablet works and a bundle with a printer may just move a few of these devices. The device itself had a few hitches—it was a prototype—but you could see your kid playing with it. In fact, you’ll have to hunt them down just like you would for the remote.

Here’s a video of HP’s console/tablet: