HP boss Whitman: 'We have to offer a smartphone'
But let's not be too hasty
Hewlett Packard may have crashed and burned when it last tried to crack the mobile device market, but it isn't ready to give up yet. According to CEO Meg Whitman, a new smartphone from HP is not a matter of "if", but "when".
Describing HP's bungled acquisition of Palm as "a detour into smartphones," Whitman told Fox Business that the PC maker definitely still has mobile ambitions, but that it's essential to "get it right this time."
"My view is we have to ultimately offer a smartphone, because in many countries of the world, that is your first computing device," Whitman said. "There will be countries in the world where people will never own a tablet or a PC or a desktop. They will do everything on a smartphone."
That will mean large portions of the world's population will have little use for HP products, unless something changes. Unlike such rivals as Apple, Samsung, and Sony, HP has never successfully penetrated the consumer phone biz.
In 2010, HP tried to buy its way into smartphone customers' pockets by snapping up Palm for $1.2bn, but sales of Palm's webOS-powered Pre and Pixi handsets foundered under HP's leadership.
After 16 months of disappointing results, then-CEO Léo Apotheker essentially chose to storm out of the market in a huff. He announced that he was pulling the plug on HP's entire webOS product line just one day after the UK launch of its last smartphone, the Pre 3, leaving retailers little choice but to sell off their remaining inventory of webOS gear at fire-sale prices.
Many assumed that move spelled the end of HP's phone forays once and for all, but somehow HP's webOS division has managed to carry on – despite layoffs – even when no one seemed sure just what it was trying to achieve.
Lately there have been rumblings that HP is planning a return to the tablet market, which seems like a less risky proposition than having another go at phones. But according to Whitman, phone plans are definitely underway, too, although HP isn't planning any sudden moves.
"We're working to make sure that when we do this it will be the right thing for Hewlett-Packard and we will be successful," she said, adding that her mantra for HP's phone team is that it's better to get things right than to enter the market faster than HP should be there.
Whitman did not say whether webOS would be in the picture for any future HP smartphones, but it could be. In August, HP spun off its former webOS division into a new subsidiary called Gram. HP has yet to publicly announce what Gram might be building, but HP's job site is full of webOS-related listings (for a change).
But whatever form a future HP smartphone might take, Whitman said we will definitely see one, eventually.
"We're a computing company," she said. "We have to take advantage of that form factor." ®
The whole webOS debacle was the height of stupidity on HP's part.
1. Price a tablet at $499, same as more established iPad. Watch as sales don't happen.
2. Discount it to $199, so that demand far outstrips the supply.
3. Lose over a billion dollars because of steps 1 & 2 and use that as a reason to discontinue the platform.
4. Dump the platform.
5. Announce you're planning to re-enter mobile phone market at some point in the future.
Is there some special moron CEO private school you have to attend to become an HP chairman?
There are plenty of Africans who have to run businesses off mobile phones in places without landlines or reliable mains electricity.
I'm not sure if a company, being a conglomerate of persons (and beancounters), can be officially diagnosed with a mental illness, but it that's possible, it's obvious that HP is schizoid, bipolar or at least has suicidal tendencies.
There's no other way to explain this behavior: "we're going to enter into that market... no, it's not our thing... yes, we can do it... no, we're ditching that division... yes... no... yes"
I'd wish the company good luck with this idea, as more competitors is always a good thing for the market, but what's the point? when the first hardware fails to meet the expected sales, it will be killed off again, with extreme prejudice.
Anon because... I'm part of that schizophrenia