HP Plans to Get Back Into Smartphones, Official Says

An HP official in the Asia/Pacific region is that latest to say that the tech vendor will get back into the smartphone market.

A Hewlett-Packard official is reiterating the company's intention of re-entering the highly competitive smartphone market.

Speaking to the Indian Express news site, Yam Su Yin, HP's senior director of consumer PC and media tablets in the Asia-Pacific region, said the tech giant is looking at smartphones as part of a larger consumer business pitch that includes tablets, notebooks and all-in-one systems.

In a response to a question about smartphones, Yin said HP does intend to get back into the market, which would pit it against the likes of Apple, Samsung and Nokia. However, she declined to say when the smartphones would hit the market.

"It would be silly if we say no," she said. "HP has to be in the game."

Yin's comments echo those made in the past by HP CEO Meg Whitman. In September 2012, Whitman said in an interview with Fox Business Network that with business users and consumers alike increasingly embracing smartphones and tablets, it would make sense for HP—one of the world's largest technology vendors, and the top PC maker globally—to take another run at the smartphone space.

"My view is we have to ultimately offer a smartphone because in many countries of the world, that is your first computing device," she said during the interview. "There will be countries around the world where people may never own a tablet or a PC or a desktop; they will do everything on a smartphone. We are a computing company; we have to take advantage of that form factor."

It's a form factor that continues to see rapid growth. IDC analysts in June said they expect 958.8 million smartphones to ship worldwide in 2013, a 32.7 percent jump from 2012. In addition, this year will be the first where smartphones will be the majority of mobile phones shipped, making up about 52.2 percent of all mobile phone shipments. Much of the growth is due to strong demand from users, a drive by both carriers and device vendors to focus on smartphones, and a wide selection of devices that hit a range of price points.

"If you look at the number of vendors who support both feature phones and smartphones, many of them have not only successfully transitioned their product portfolios to highlight smartphones, but smartphones have become their primary value proposition going forward," Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC's Mobile Phones program, said in a statement.

This wouldn't be HP's first attempt at smartphones. Several years ago, HP, the world's top PC maker, offered a range of mobile devices running Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system. The company bought mobile device maker Palm for $1.2 billion in 2010, when Mark Hurd was HP's CEO. Palm had its share of smartphones, but HP officials said the key to the deal was Palm's webOS operating system, which HP officials planned to use in a broad portfolio of devices, from PCs to tablets to smartphones.

However, after announcing a webOS-based tablet, the TouchPad, and the Veer and Pre 3 smartphones, HP in 2011 announced it was getting rid of its webOS-based devices, including the smartphones.

In the interview in 2012, Whitman said it was important that HP get the smartphone efforts right this time.

"In the end, I would love to be able to provide all the way from the most fabulous workstations to desktops, to laptops, to our tablets and convertibles, all the way to the smartphone," she said. "But we did take a detour into smartphones, and we've got to get it right this time. … We're working to make sure that, when we do this, it will be the right thing for HP and we will be successful."

HP's Yin admitted that HP will arrive back into the smartphone market behind competitors. However, she said, "Being late, you have to create a different set of proposition. There are still things that can be done. It's not late. When HP has a smartphone, it will give a differentiated experience."