Hewlett-Packard has long been a marginal player in the smartphone business, but with the Palm acquisition complete, it's back in the game. Palm must make the most of this opportunity to find new success in the world of enterprise mobility, working within HP's corporate culture.
completion of its Palm acquisition July 1 means that the smartphone
business has a new, highly important player that could change the landscape in
ways that matter to enterprise users.
By buying Palm, HP gets access to its current devices, the Pre and Pixi in
both regular (for Sprint) and Plus (for Verizon Wireless) editions, but it also
gets WebOS. While the devices and the existing sales outlets are important
sources of revenue for HP's new division, they're not the main reason this acquisition
HP really needs a new mobile operating system. For years now the company's
generally well-designed devices have been saddled with one version or another
of Microsoft's stodgy Windows Mobile OS. This meant that users had an interface
that was impossible to love, that was inefficient and that didn't offer a ready
source of the kind of applications that every other smartphone from Android devices
to Research In Motion's BlackBerrys was featuring. So HP's iPaq was selling,
slowly, to business customers that already had a deal with HP, could get it for
a low price and needed a device that would work with their Exchange servers.
So now that HP owns Palm, what next? There will be a period of integration
in which Palm employees decide whether they like working for a massive
corporation with a global reach. There will be some false starts and pondering
as HP and Palm try to figure out where Palm's products fit into HP's universe,
and there will be a new effort to design platforms using HP's hardware skills
and Palm's WebOS.
During that time, Palm engineers will be trying out the HP corporate
culture. HP will be trying to find ways to get as many of them as possible to
stay. For Palm's engineers, at least, this could be the best possible outcome.
Unlike most other megacorporations, HP is extremely decentralized. The
company's divisions operate almost autonomously, and the culture in different
divisions can be quite diverse while still existing happily under one corporate
In addition, Palm's engineers will find that they suddenly have access to a
breadth of financial and development resources far beyond anything they've
experienced. HP has a long history of innovation, and it has divisions making
virtually any device you can think of.
In addition, Palm's engineers will have a new mission that they couldn't
have had the ability to accomplish in the past-to develop an enterprise-capable
tablet device that will rival the iPad in ease of use, with a real enterprise-class
mobile operating system and a broad customer base.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.