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HP/Palm Deal Final — Time to Get Busy

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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).

HP tc1100

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

18 Responses to “HP/Palm Deal Final — Time to Get Busy”

  1. I don’t give a rat about those useless tablets, give us some nice phones. The Pre is okay by 2009 standards, but it looks pretty sad compared to today’s best.
    And the incentive for developers, absolutely plenty of good ideas there.

  2. Thank you James for continuing to push this idea. My TC1100 is getting long in the tooth and I would love to replace it with a WebOS tablet. Although I am considering replacing my setup with your Mac/iPad mobile setup.


    Just got my EVO and come to find out it doesn’t do multiple exchange accounts. Amazingly enough MOTO Droid does. Just goes to show you Android and iPhone are about the lifestyle and playing with cool apps and not about getting business done. When will this important business feature be added froyo? maybe … maybe when developers are done playing.


      The point I was trying to make was since the original palm pilot it was always about getting business done first whiz bang flashy stuff second.

  4. With ex-Palm personal already defecting, thinks aren’t looking good.

    Ideally what should happen, or by the time you read this, should’ve happened was to keep Palm more or less intact. Freed from money worries. they could have concentrated on evolving WebOS and with HP’s engineering expertise, producing the next generation of phones. The new products would serve to keep the brand alive with customers and carriers, something that’s important now considering how crowded the mobile segment is getting.

    But what I’m hearing more and more is the dreaded “I” word: “integration”. Palm talent and IP being broken up and dispersed to various departments, where the since of urgency and purpose are diluted.

  5. Nissan LEAF

    It won’t be easy. Just look at how long it took Android to get close to APple and they had many vendors making 60+ android devices and google doing rapid sw updates, all this to try and catch ONE COMPANY MAKING JUST ONE PHONE. It still took them YEARS to catch up to Apple after pooling all their resources. WebOS/HP has an uphill battle for sure. The only good thing is that the Phone market is much bigger than the PC market and could easily support three(3) smartphone OS platforms with each being profitable. Will WebOS be that third wheel ? who knows

  6. I wouldn’t say HP’s phone hardware was that great James – the h6315 turned out to be a total flop as a result of the major hardware problems HP ignored to identify by rushing the product out the door. T-Mobile was not hesitant to pull it from sales either once users started to complain and HP was receiving more units for repair than they wanted.

    Lesson learned – fully test your product before releasing it, since no firmware update in the world is going to correct a hardware defect. Hopefully HP has gotten their act together, but I would be hesitant buying another HP handset again after my experience with two h6315 iPAQ’s.

  7. Scotty

    As Apple proved what HP needs to do is develop a kick ass developer toolkit, build a kick ass piece of hardware and apps can show up very rapidly.

    No one can write squat until they know such fundamental things as screen resolution, GPU, GPU clock rate, CPU, CPU clock rate, how much RAM etc… that’s the build a kick ass piece of hardware part.

    HP’s Palm team has also clearly proven they know very little about writing a kick ass developer toolkit. HP itself has no proven resources for developing such a toolkit either.

    Personally what I’d do is have the Palm folks leverage Xcode to develop a toolkit for webOS. There’s very little Apple can do to prevent HP co-opting their development environment to develop for their hardware. :-)

  8. PalmPilot

    +++ OPEN LETTER TO HP +++
    We the people of the WebOS nation immediately demand that HP release the 9.7 inch tablet computer fully enabled with WebOS 4.0 without delay. This 1080p tablet running the HP4 2Ghz Dual-Core ARM processor and powered by an 18 hour lithium polymer removable battery must be made available to the average consumer posthaste. Some additional specifications can now be released pending this class-action lawsuit.

    Palm hPad Hardware Specifications:
    – 1.1 lbs
    – Replaceable high-density Lithium 18-hour battery
    – Includes extra second battery
    – Includes portable docking/keyboard/charging station
    – Includes protective leather customized case
    – 9.7 inch IPS RD Organic Display
    – Native 1920×1080 pixel resolution
    – Capacitive Display interface
    – Front & Rear facing CCD Cameras supporting full 1080p recording at 60fps
    – Integrated Aluminum Kickstand
    – Stereo Bluetooth, WiFi (802.11n), 10Gb Ethernet networking
    – Wireless HDMI connectivity
    – 2 SDXC slots for memory expansion
    – Built-in 256 GB high speed memory
    – 4 USB 3.0 ports
    – Built-in CDMA, GSM, WiMAX and LTE radios
    – Built-in GPS, Gyroscope and Accelerometer

    Palm hPad Software Specifications:
    – WebOS 4.0 Pre-emptive multi-tasking Operating System
    – Built-in Android 3.0 Virtual Machine(VM)
    – Built-in iOS 4.0 Virtual Machine (VM)
    – Seamlessly runs all WebOS, Android and iOS Apps simultaneously
    – Free access to 60,000 Apps in the HP App Store
    – Free access to 700,000 Books in the HP Book Store
    – Free access to 21,000 Movies in the HP Movie Store
    – Free access to 12,000 Magazines in the HP Mag Store
    – Free access to 2,000 Newspaper in the HP Fishwrap Store
    – Free full support for Exchange, Notes, Groupwise email
    – Free full support for Microsoft Office 97,200x,2010
    – Free full support for Adobe Flash 10.1
    – Free full support for HTML 5.0 in HP WebKit Browser
    – Built-in Hotspot Access Point for sharing up to 16 devices via WiFi
    – Free 5-year Unlimited Bandwidth 4G plans (HP subsidized)
    – Free Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile Unlimited Access (HP subsidized)
    – Free ABC,FOX,NBC,CBS,HBO,MTV,ShowTime,Netflix, Hulu, Blockbuster,NFL,MLB,NBA,
    NASCAR,USGA,USTA unlimited access (HP subsidized)

      • Telco Geek

        Certainly doable (except maybe for the battery weight). Anyway it would be pricey, but then Apple Customers have been known to pay extra for things they want. I think it would find a niche market and would be an awesome device to test carrier networks with.

  9. An idea: Rather than split the proceeds of an app sale with developers, pay developers 100% for the first six months the app’s available, then do the 70/30 split. That would get some attention, and the new apps flowing again.
    My commission is 3% of sales….

    • Code Monkey

      Good Idea. I would suggest offering $100 million worth of app prizes given to the most innovative app in each category to be awarded annually. Basically whatever it takes to rapidly build up the HP App Store. This includes a special gaming section with exclusive titles from all the major game companies partnered with HP, in other words HP pays them to build state-of-the-art games exclusive to the hPad. Also a special Sling-Box type App that is linked directly to digital projection systems in major theatre chains (i.e. CineMark, Tinsletown,etc) to view LIVE movies in real-time via WebOS devices (free but subsidized via ads and HP).
      Bottom Line: HP needs to think outside the box and ignite a fire under WebOS that will burn down the walled gardens of the competition.