Two things have happened. HP bought Palm; that was exciting news and I set about to write a story on this major development. The possibilities are endless, but one thing is clear. Hewlett Packard is making a move, a big move. I was chatting excitedly about this after writing the story and then the announcement came in a story broken last night that HP was, in fact killing their relationship with Microsoft. This is Future Shock. This is a Sea-change in the nature of the mobileverse, maybe. Why? Well let us put two and two together and see what happens when we add them up…
Part 1-The set-up
As soon as it was clear that the iPad was set as the brute force ploy on the new tablet market, HP made a move. The announced the development of the Slate. The HP Slate was Hewlett Packard’s answer to the iPad. Priced at the same level, even slightly more ultimately, the HP Slate was going to run Microsoft Windows Phone series 7. It was going to be cool and the world waited for the legend of the iPad killer’s birth announcements.
They teased and there has been a lot of teasing this year, with the promise of a challenger to the Apple dominion. The Specs where decent, the rumored price a little higher than the iPad, but we thought, “…well, it will be Windows 7, so it will have a strong business presence.” The hardware was decent, battery life was a little lacking but, Ok overall. With all of the Windows power running full productivity apps and Microsoft Silverlight, that was OK. So we waited and then we learned of the Palm purchase. “Wow!” We thought, this could be cool, HP on the move, the tablet will…
Part 2-The Switch
…do nothing. On April 29, the world learned that the HP Slate project was killed, and I do mean killed. They stopped work “mid app” and just up and walked away. Many speculated all night as to the meaning of this. Was HP backing out of the Apple iPad fight? Is the drama surrounding the legal and financial battles too much for them after spending 1.2 billion on Palm (OMG! What a bargain! Talk about your Free Beer!)? All us tech junkies wondered and then a thought occurred, “…what if they killed the Slate because of the WebOS?” BINGO! That had to be it! WebOS is Palm’s revolutionary new mobile OS that has developers and analysts seeing the Star Ship Enterprise Empire all over again. There can be only one reason that the moment HP owned Palm, they then killed the Slate. They are going to switch horses in mid race and go with WebOS rather than Windows 7. Wow! But how can we know for sure? I wonder…
Part 3-The Kill
Then we learned in the middle of that night that HP had sent divorce papers to Microsoft, post haste. There wasn’t even a “Dear John” letter; just the terms of separation. There can be no other interpretation, the HP Slate will be dumped and soon, very soon we will be seeing an HP WebOS Tablet (OMG!). This could very well be an iPad killer. The WebOS is so innovative that if it where on a tablet it would be a serious challenge to the iPad. The fact that it is built on an Open Source base means developers will dive for the app bandwagon and the future will be an open horizon. The fact that it was developed to optimize the smartphone experience means that its design should be very attractive, much as the Slate was and the Pre is. The WebOS was to be the challenger to the iPhone.
However some of us thought that the WebOS was a little too big, a little too powerful to live on a tiny 3.8 inch screen. Palm had said nothing about a tablet (Oh, but the rumors flew) and that was it, story over. Now, while someone’s first thought would naturally be if HP was moving to secure a position in the smartphone market, one that would give them a fighting chance to compete, that may not be the entire story. You see, HP has always been, and continues to live on as a PC company. They are a hardware company that makes its living with servers and laptops and desktops, “oh my.” It makes perfect sense, a tablet. Think of the business opportunities ….
Part 4-The Next Turn
HP is perfectly positioned to bring a tablet to the business community. They are at the top of the channel food-chain and there are now credible tablet offerings, yet. However, the iPad is not, I repeat: NOT for business. Yes, you will see many business-like people using them but you will not see IT departments integrating them into their networks, yet because IT people like to control their networks. No one controls an iPad, it controls you; just the way Steve Jobs intended.
Nevertheless, if HP releases a tablet running WebOS they will accomplish two things, they will give IT businesses a professional grade unit they can rely on and source from the channel. Second, they will give the IT business community a professional grade tablet that is running a supremely cool, “De.li.cio.us” OS that is Open Source and nothing could be more tempting to a serious IT professional in a business environment.
You see, that means that they can control IT, rather then being controlled by the maker of IT; sorry Apple. This may be the biggest thing all year, if HP manages not to punt at the 7 yard line on this one we will see a major tablet win in the business sector, complete with cloud services `n all. Then they will march out the string of smartphone hits that supplant Blackberry in the working handset market. Oopps, did I say that out loud? Keep looking up…
References & Resources:
TechCrunch: HP on Palm Acquisition “Our Intention is to Double Down on WebOS”
TechCrunch: HP to Kill Windows 7 Tablet Project
Engadget: HP Slate Tablet Killed? Rumors Say “Yes”
Information Week: HP iPad Killer “DOA?”