HP (s hpq) has closed on the $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm (s palm), and this substantial investment means it’s time to get down to business. Here’s what HP needs to do to make its Palm buy a success.
The top item on the HP post-merger agenda involves sending a clear message to Palm’s webOS developers that states its full commitment to the platform. The development community is bound to feel some uncertainty over HP’s intentions with webOS, and the company would do well to assuage those fears. HP could do so by being clear in its intentions and communications. The recent move by Palm to waive the $50 application fee for developers, even retroactively, is a good first step.
With its vast resources, HP can ramp up this development effort better than Palm could by itself. Hosting some app competitions that throw a few million dollars at top applicants could get some good coding happening quickly. HP should focus on getting both smartphone and tablet apps, as each device has a different usage scenario.
The tablet space is hot due to the success of the iPad (s aapl), and HP has indicated it has plans for webOS in this area. Producing a webOS tablet should be a priority of HP, to help the company compete with the iPad and make its personal computing business more mobile. We will see a flood of tablets running Android (s goog) hit the market late this year, and HP could certainly compete with them. The webOS system is a good fit for touch tablet operation, better than Android, and HP should prove that with its first effort. With Palm, HP is able to do so without input from Intel (s intc) or Microsoft (s msft).
Tablets have only recently gotten a lot of attention, but HP has been making them for nearly a decade. The HP-produced tc1000 slate computer was the precursor for the iPad, so HP knows how to build these things. The key now is timing — HP needs to beat the big Android tablets to market. Get a solid webOS tablet to market with the HP branding, and it will have a big impact on this space.
The smartphone area is going to be important for HP going forward. Palm created a good platform in webOS, but was hampered by hardware regarded as worse than the competition. HP has a long history of producing great phone hardware — previously on the Windows Mobile platform — and this expertise needs to be leveraged to take advantage of the strengths of webOS. Big screens and state-of-the-art hardware components can be coupled with webOS to make phones that are competitive with both the iPhone and Android.
HP needs to be tightly focused on these areas to make an effective run with Palm, and the company needs to act quickly. The mobile space has a very short product cycle, and HP must be prepared to meet that head-on. Companies that plan 18 months to two years ahead in the mobile space often miss the window of opportunity. Look no further than Redmond to see that truth.
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub req’d): HP/Palm Merger Yields Big Opportunities