Hewlett-Packard will exclusively run Palm's WebOS software on its anticipated smartphone line, HP Executive Vice President Todd Bradley told CNBC.
The July 23 announcement means that while HP, the world's top PC maker, may be Microsoft's biggest customer, it will be passing up Microsoft's newest mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7, which is scheduled to arrive in fall 2010 on devices from Samsung, LG, Asus and HTC.
Since HP's $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm earlier in 2010, HP executives have been open and excited about their plans to "participate more aggressively in the highly profitable, $100 billion smartphone and connected mobile devices markets," as well as to launch WebOS on a number of form factors, including tablets, printers and smartphones.
While the rumor mill predicted that HP would scrap its planned Slate tablet-a Microsoft OS-running device-in favor of a WebOS-based tablet, Bradley said at a recent tech conference that HP plans to release both: an enterprise-geared, Microsoft-based tablet, and a "broadly deployed" consumer-geared tablet running WebOS. (HP has filed to trademark the name PalmPad, presumably for the latter.)
That HP wasn't similarly planning a two-prong approach to smartphones was perhaps alluded to during HP's second-quarter earnings announcement May 18. HP President and CEO Mark Hurd told analysts and reporters on a conference call that as the world becomes more mobile, customers will demand more choice. Hurd later went on to say, "Microsoft is probably one of the best relationships we've got in our company, and they're still extremely important to us. There are a couple of form factors, though, that are very attractive for us, and these small form factors are where we think the [WebOS] IP can be very additive."
Former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein, the man behind the Palm Pre and Pixi, has stayed on board to head HP's WebOS efforts, and analysts have repeatedly opined that the open-source operating system is HP's best chance of competing against industry-leaders Apple and Google. Also expected to help HP in the smartphone market is the fact that, unlike Apple, it plans to use the channel to move its WebOS-based devices, which could help it get its numbers climbing.
Bradley told CNBC that HP "brings significant strengths" to its purchased Palm assets. In addition, with smartphones (unlike with other form factors) it will for now be going down a WebOS-only road. "Our intent," Bradley said, "is to focus those resources on really making WebOS the best-connected OS it can be."
During the second quarter of 2010, the smartphone market, led by Nokia, Research In Motion and Apple, saw shipments rise to a record high of 60 million units, according to Strategy Analytics. Up from 41.5 million units a year ago, the figure shows a year-over-year growth of 43 percent.