Editor’s Note: The Enterprise Mobility Foundation is proud to welcome Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates, as its latest guest columnist. Jack is a recognized industry expert, analyzing various aspects of enterprise mobility. Like the other guest columnists, Jack will provide this community tremendous and colorful insights on the subject. Welcome, Jack!
HP has released its first new smartphone device running the latest version of webOS, a modern OS that could have been a real contender 1-2 years earlier. But, is webOS a credible smartphone differentiator in a very crowded market? Is it enough to reignite the Palm/Pre brand, or is it just too late?
Today’s smartphone market is very different from the market Palm helped build. In my opinion, it’s too late for HP to release a webOS smartphone that captures any real market share from iPhone, Android or BlackBerry. Palm aficionados have largely moved on – mostly to Android. Consumers are largely unaware of Palm’s new OS. Carrier relationships are weak at best. And HP has less than a stellar record in smartphones, having been in the business for years with little to show for it. So it’s unlikely an HP branded phone will demand much attention, either from consumers, or ultimately from the carriers through which HP must channel the devices. And even with increasing acceptance of user liable devices, it is unlikely webOS smartphones will have any real impact in the enterprise.
But HP may still have an opportunity with webOS in the tablet market, if it acts soon and forcefully. This market is still forming and there is no dominant player yet (although Apple is certainly strong and Android will be a major contender). Despite HP’s recent release of its Windows 7 based tablet for the enterprise user, there is still plenty of room to do what HP does best – design and mass market devices. The majority of tablets will ultimately be sold through retail and HP has incredibly strong relationships with all of the major retailers worldwide. An inexpensive but highly capable webOS tablet could be very successful, and a real challenger to iPad and Android tablets. And with an understanding of the enterprise market, HP could build a compelling device for business users as well.
It is unlikely HP will be able to compete with Android and iOS (or even Windows) for the minds and hearts of app developers for webOS targeted apps. But Web connectivity will make that less of an issue since so many will run in the cloud through the browser (e.g., HTML5).
So the tablet is HP’s real opportunity for the remnants of Palm and it’s webOS – not the smartphone market. But I wonder if management is up to the task. My advice to Todd Bradley and his executive team of mostly ex-Palmites is forget about smartphones and concentrate on tablets. My advice to end users is forget about Palm webOS-based phones altogether, and consider webOS tablets where it makes sense (when and if HP has competitive and timely offerings).
Jack Gold is President of J. Gold Associates. You can connect with him here.