Joe Zeff Design

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R.I.P. HP TouchPad. What Next?

The good die young, they say. The HP TouchPad was good, but not nearly good enough, and two months after its launch it is dead. It looked like an iPad, but didn't sell like an iPad. It didn't have the familiar user interface of an iPad, the steadfast developer community of the iPad, or the interconnected ecosystem of an iPad. It didn't have 90,000 apps at the tap of an icon, nor did it have 200 million account holders. Because it wasn't an iPad.

Lesson learned. A $499 tablet now collects even more dust on a shelf at Joe Zeff Design. We spent hours trying — and failing — to port our most successful iOS apps to WebOS. There's something to be said for targeting a single platform, particularly one that dominates the marketplace as thoroughly as Apple's, and delivering products that maximize its potential. What worked seamlessly in our iPad apps operated so clumsily on the TouchPad. How long before BlackBerry hands in its PlayBook? Can't be soon enough.

The body count will climb, faster and faster. Google's purchase of Motorola Mobility sets the table for iPad versus Xoom, putting Samsung on the sidelines. Amazon and Barnes & Noble will go head-to-head for now, but the online retailer has the upper hand with a next-generation Kindle in the works, a more diversified e-commerce operation, and one-click access to your credit card. Meanwhile, there's nothing to prevent Apple or Google from rolling out a smaller tablet to transform that market overnight.

It's not just about hardware. This week, Google Catalog suddenly made it easier for retailers to convert old-fashioned catalogs into e-commerce applications, and at the same time made it harder for developers to capture that market opportunity. It is the latest example of content aggregation in the app marketplace, where curated content is removed from its familiar environment and presented in ways that make it easier for consumers to define their own experiences. New brands are built overnight, like AOL Editions, by pillaging the content of established brands.

Those with established brands are forced to define themselves and defend themselves. The best defense is a good offense — extensions that apply the brand values to other experiences that meet consumers' needs and integrate with their lives.

But brand extension can be tricky. Just ask Hewlett-Packard.

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