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HP embarks on mobile journey

Posted: 11 Feb 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile OS? smartphone platforms? tablet market?

Hewlett-Packard, the world's largest PC maker and top chips buyer, is just about to begin a long, arduous journey. While its biggest rivals have made major inroads into the new mobile arena beyond notebooks, HP has yet to make its presence felt in a market that is rapidly redefining computing.

The company won't reach that destination anytime soon, but it may take a significant step in the right direction.

HP starts off way behind. Apple defined the tablet market almost a year ago with the iPad and is about to release its next-generation model. Samsung has already taken the fast follower slot with its Android-based Galaxy Tab. Motorola has grabbed early kudos for challenging Samsung's #2 status with its soon-to-be-released Xoom tablet based on Android 3.0.

HP can't even hope to jump to the #4 spot right away. A slew of companies including Acer, Dell, LG, Lenovo and many others are already tussling for that position with devices shown at last month's Consumer Electronics Show, generally using Microsoft's Windows 7 or Google's Android.

The bar for success is high for HP. It must not only show a compelling product in an area where it is the umpteenth player, it has to establish a new platform.

Apple's iOS and Google's Android are well down the road with thousands of apps on their mobile OS. Research in Motion has a solid following for its Blackberry platform that it is already converting to its new QNX-based environment for the Playbook tablet going into beta trials this month.

Nokia will no doubt push one of its smartphone platforms as a tablet OS, too. We just don't know yet whether the company's new CEO will opt for Symbian, MeeGo, Windows 7 or Android.

So here too, HP will have to fight its way forward even into fourth place with its WebOS acquired with Palm. We pity the software developers who have to figure out which of these platforms to back.

Clearly the Palm team HP acquired in April 2010 is talented. Their Pre smartphone and its follow-ons were world-class. But the world turns quickly and waits for no corporate mergers.

HP's size is no guarantee of its success. It was a timely player in the PDA era with its iPaq handheld from Compaq, but the winds of the smartphone world blew out that flame.

Creating a new class of smartphones and tablets under a new corporate structure with a new software platform is no small feat. Hard as success in that job is, it is just table stakes to get back into a mobile competition that is one of the fiercest battlegrounds in modern electronics.

There will be plenty of battles ahead before the new mobile world matures and its winners emerge. Welcome to the battle, HP.

Rick Merritt
EE Times

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