Hewlett Packard has seen the future, and none of it looks good for a company that makes laptops, desktops, and printers.
So, after their — what’s a polite way of putting this — disastrous belly-flop into the smartphone and tablet market by buying Palm and releasing the quickly-spiked TouchPad, Hewlett Packard has announced that they’re going to get back into the smartphone game sooner rather than later.
Oh, this will not end well.
If I sound overly skeptical of Hewlett Packard’s return to the smartphone market, it’s because I’m a student of history. Hewlett Packard shelled out $1.2 billion for Palm, and their ultimate return on their investment was putting out the OS as open-source software after the Palm Pre unsurprisingly failed to make a dent in the market. Their market presence currently can be defined by this factoid: I thought Hewlett Packard had stopped making smartphones, but has apparently been updating the Pre as late as 2011. So really they’ve just paused making smartphones.
More to the point, Hewlett Packard’s business model, to this point, has been turning ’em out cheap and cheerful for the home market and turning them out slightly less cheap and more restrained looking for the business market.
That plan doesn’t work in smartphones. Research In Motion has followed a similar trajectory and it’s led them straight into the toilet. Furthermore, the only mark WebOS has made on mobile is a stain on the bottom of Google and Apple’s shoes as it accidentally gets stepped on. It seems likely that HP will either be ditching it, most likely for Android, or just spending a lot of money on advertising to try and convince people perfectly happy with iOS and Android to switch to something they’ve never heard of. There are religions that have an easier time converting people.
Do I think Hewlett Packard is capable of making something attention-getting? Sure. They’ve got the engineers, and they’ve got a killer scam with printer ink going. But it’s going to take a lot more to make them competitive than just turning out another Android smartphone.