WebOS in the Tablet Market
WebOS in the tablet market
But all may not be lost for WebOS. HP still has 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 market devices to consumers. Tablets are different than smartphones and the channels are largely different as well. The majority of tablets will ultimately be sold through retail (not directly by the carriers), and HP has incredibly strong relationships here with all of the major retailers worldwide. So, an inexpensive but highly capable WebOS tablet could be very successful-and a real challenger to iPad and Android tablets.
Application availability should be easier here as well since so many of the application users' access will run in the cloud through the browser (for example, HTML5). It is unlikely HP will be able to compete with Android and iOS (or even Windows) for the minds and hearts of application developers for a large assortment of WebOS-targeted applications.
But Web connectivity will make that less of an issue. And if HP is smart about it, their WebOS tablet can be nicely coupled with the panoply of other computing and consumer devices they already market. This is their golden opportunity for the remnants of Palm and its WebOS-not the smartphone market.
But I wonder if management is up to the task, given that much of the management team running the show-both newly-acquired with Palm and the existing HP PSG veterans such as Todd Bradley and his team-are ex-Palm? Is this giving them a slanted view of the market? There have been a number of ex-Palm folks leaving as of late, so this could signal a new direction.
If I were Bradley, I would immediately de-emphasize plans for future Windows tablets and put all of HP's energies into an attractive and cost-competitive WebOS tablet-and get it to market before the end of the year. Not doing so will put it at a competitive disadvantage from which it may not be able to recover.
HP invested a lot in its acquisition of Palm. So far, it has little to show for it. The longer HP waits, the less likely it will get any return on its investment.
Jack E. Gold is the founder and Principal Analyst at J. Gold Associates, an IT analyst firm based in Northborough, Mass., covering the many aspects of business and consumer computing and emerging technologies. Jack is a former VP of research services at the META Group. He has over 35 years experience in the computer and electronics industries. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.