When Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) first made its offer for Palm, many observers figured that Palm’s new webOS operating system was the jewel in the crown. The two smartphones that Palm had released using the new operating system had not done well in the market, but maybe webOS could be adapted to a tablet device.
Trouble is HP and Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) had introduced a tablet PC in January using Microsoft’s Windows 7 OS. HP apparently killed that project in April, presumably due to the high power requirements to run Windows. HP then turned to a tablet device powered by the Android mobile OS from Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) that could compete with the iPad from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL). To crowd the field even more, Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL), Research in Motion Ltd. (NASDAQ: RIMM), and Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) have also announced development of tablet PCs and devices.
HP had intended to release its first Android-powered tablet by the end of 2010. According to a report at All Things Digital, HP has shelved those plans and now will focus on developing a tablet device using Palm’s webOS for release in the company’s fourth fiscal quarter ending in October.
It’s not too hard to figure out why HP has decided to focus on webOS. First, the company owns the operating system, which gives it the same sort of advantage that Apple has with its iPad/iPhone operating system. Having control of the entire ecosystem has paid off for Apple, and could also pay off for HP.
Second, developing for three different operating systems at the same time is a recipe for disaster. The Android-based device has not been killed, just postponed until sometime in 2011. Depending on who you ask, HP has or has not killed the Windows 7-based tablet, but, again, has postponed it or decided to wait for Microsoft to kick out a mobile version of Windows 7. Whatever.
Apple has a big lead in tablet devices, and its unlikely that any company will be able to unseat the Cupertino clique. But being the second banana is not a bad position either. Apple’s recent success in moving the iPad into the corporate market must have been a wake-up call to HP.
HP surely reckons that if it sticks to developing webOS and puts all its money and effort behind one OS the company will get to market quicker with a better product and secure for itself the number two position in the market. From there, HP can focus on selling into its corporate customer base and, just maybe, beat back an Apple challenge to HP’s position in the corporate IT sector.
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