Monday, May 3, 2010

Dude, You're Gettin' a Palm

HP Buys PalmIn case you're not up to date with the latest tech happenings, HP has acquired Palm for $1.2 billion. If you're saying to yourself "Big Whoopty Doo", there's really not much needed to know. The biggest factors involving this merger is the future of webOS, the evolution of the smartphone, and of course the fact that this is HP's big attempt to jump into the smartphone market.

If you examine the evolution of the smartphone—particularly after the release of the first iPhone which paved the way for the smartphone industry—it becomes clear that the devices are really just small PCs. They require processors, ram, and other hardware just like a PC and at the same time they require operating system to bring all that hardware together for a smooth platform. Dell was perhaps one of the first to notice this PC "trend" and now the company is coming out with Dell-branded smartphones.

HP, on the other hand, allowed its Windows Mobile-powered iPaq line to stagnate while they waited for Microsoft to roll out a new version of its mobile OS. As HP continued to wait for Microsoft and the iPaq line further deteriorated, Apple, Google, RIM, and many others have bulked up their rosters of smartphones leaving HP trailing in the dust still waiting on Microsoft. It's important to note that Apple and Google (Android) aren't just offering great smartphones, but rather an all-in-one phone solution including hardware, software, and services.

Clearly HP was missing something despite their ability to produce great hardware and provided great services. So far HP has been forced to use currently available operating systems which has effectively tied HP's future to whoevers' operation system they used. Whether it was Windows Phone 7 or Android, Microsoft or Google would have controlled their destiny.

With the Palm acquisition, HP is finally in a position to control its own mobile destiny. With webOS, HP gets an operating system that fully spans mobile communication and the Web while no longer having to rely on Microsoft or Google to provide the OS. This merger successfully puts HP's foot in the door for smartphones, tablets, and netbooks. HP currently plans to invest well over $200 million into Palm R&D while also investing heavily in third-party software development for the webOS platform. Palm's OS gives HP the ability to unite Web apps with mobile apps in real-time on mobile platforms just like the iPhone.

However there is a chance that HP's plan will be nothing more than a huge flop. Simply put, HP wants what Apple has. A single operating system, which it completely controls, at the heart of all of its consumer electronics -- phones, tablets, netbooks, lightweight PCs, digital cameras, televisions, etc. The problem lies with the fact that WebOS is already considered a failed platform. Despite its nice user interface and a few technical qualities, consumers haven't found any justification to buy Palm devices instead of Apple, Android, or even Microsoft devices. And, more importantly, developers haven't found any incentive to develop applications for WebOS.

Without any unique apps there would be absolutely no reason to have a unique platform. All the while, Android and Apple continue to fade away into the distance with crowds of people behind them while HP is still trying to get their game straight.
Hopefully this merger will become a success with HP becoming a mobile powerhouse over the next few years but only time will tell.

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