Yesterday’s HP event was as much about a couple of smartphones and a tablet as it was about justifying to investors the $1.2 billion the company spent to acquire Palm. Judging by the way HP’s stock has risen steadily since yesterday’s announcement, I’d say investors have been assured that their money is being put to good use.
While the HP Veer, Pre 3 and TouchPad are privy to some quality hardware (certainly a step up from the original Pre), it’s webOS that is the real “apple” of HP’s eye, and isn’t it exactly Apple’s lead that HP is following? Leo Apotheker, the company’s new CEO, said as much last week in comments to the BBC. “I hope one day people will say ‘this is as cool as HP,’ not ‘as cool as Apple,'” Apotheker was quoted as saying, and he might be on his way to doing just that.
Yesterday’s presentation revealed as complete a vision as we’ve seen from any mobile OEM in a long time. Jon Rubenstein and friends showed the world an ecosystem of devices that are backed by a strong understanding, and equally brilliant implementation, of the cloud. HP is big enough to have its hands in all the right baskets. It’s a company that makes printers, cameras, smartphones, tablets, desktop PCs and laptops, and it’s working to bring them all together.
There are few mobile OEMs that can boast this kind of product depth and a vision that brings it all together. Research In Motion (RIM) is struggling to understand its place in the consumer market. Microsoft just launched an OS that had to be updated to include cut-and-paste and Android, and while impressive, it’s still grappling with massive fragmentation issues. In contrast, HP is working with a mobile platform that is robust enough that we could see it on PCs by the end of the year.
There were glimpses of greatness and vision at yesterday’s presentation – for instance, when the Pre 3 was held next to the TouchPad and the browser that was loading jumped to the Pre 3. That’s a thing of beauty. That’s the kind of thing that Apple has made its bread and butter. What should make HP investors even more pleased is the quality the company is managing across all of its progress. Have you seen the new Touchsmart computers? Have you tried printing wirelessly from your iPhone to an HP ePrinter (seamless).
With all that said, there are still hurdles ahead for HP and webOS. Developer support is probably the biggest obstacle to success for Apotheker and his team. Without more apps, the Pre 3 is dead in the water. The other problem is letting the world know what it has to offer. Apple wouldn’t be where it is without the best marketing on the planet. We’re watching Microsoft struggle with this problem right now. WP7 is actually a pretty smooth OS, but the company is still viewed as the maker of sub-standard Windows Mobile devices.
Nevertheless, HP is in an admirable position. It has a foundation (quality devices, outstanding platform, fresh leadership) and appears to have plotted a convincing route forward. The company’s new slogan is “Everybody On.” If they can make sure enough developers climb on board, HP (with Palm’s well-justified webOS in tow) could be in for quite the ride.