At one point in time HP had the best combination of mobile devices anywhere. They owned their own line of PDAs and also purchased Compaq who made the IPAQ – a game-changing device if there ever was one. The thing I liked about the IPAQ versus the Palm 7 which was a competitive device released around the same time was that COMPAQ decided to forego battery life for a bright color screen. In many ways the iPhone 5 reminds me of the first IPAQ device – especially when it prematurely runs out of battery power.
I have been bullish on the prospects of Apple because you can see from their retail stores that iPod users become iPhone users become iPad users become iMac users. Spend 15 minutes in any of the stores before back-to-school season and you hear the conversations between kids and their parents – it is a really fascinating way to get a sense of how the typical Apple buyer ticks.
HP realizes their deficiency and has recently acknowledged they too need a smartphone. This should come as a surprise to those people who know the company’s past full endeavors in the market.
As mentioned above, they virtually invented the color PDA market with a product produced by HTC who was unknown at the time. They then lost their PDA advantage when Blackberry and other smartphones became popular alternatives to PDAs. They just never had a credible smartphone at the time. They then resold Apple iPods under Carly Fiorina’s watch then they decided this wasn’t a good idea when Carly left. They then bought 3COM/Palm for their mobile platform and couldn’t figure out how to get that to sell.
Now, the media is buzzing about HP’s latest plans which reinforce CEO Meg Whitman’s comments from some time back, "We have to ultimately offer a smartphone because in many countries of the world that would be your first computing device," Whitman said. "We are a computing company."
This comment tells us what we know intuitively – in order to sell consumer tech hardware, you need a phone, possibly a music player, a tablet and a range of laptops and desktops.
The only companies who have most of these things today are Samsung, Apple and Google.
Dell has a smartphone as well but that doesn’t count – it is a stealth product and seems it will always be. While mentioning stealth products, Samsung’s line of music players aren’t exactly setting the world on fire.
Successful hardware players have to have a holistic set of products which allow their ecosystem users to move up and down the ladder of devices and for the time being, the leaders will be the three mentioned at the start of this piece. Sony gets an honorable mention of course but not much more until they figure out how to get more interest in their entire product line - especially mobile.
If HP can become successful in the tablet and smartphone space, they too can become part of this elusive club. If not, they will continue to lose share to the rest of the field.