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Why HP Should Shelve Android Tablet Plans

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HP (s hpq) has postponed plans for an Android tablet device that was expected to arrive in the fourth quarter of this year, says AllThingsD. This marks the second potential shift for HP’s 2010 tablet plans as the HP Slate running Windows 7 (s msft) previewed center-stage at Microsoft’s Consumer Electronics Show in January hasn’t been mentioned much by HP since then. While many in tech circles are waiting to see a flood of Android tablets to combat Apple’s successful iPad, there are at least two reasons for HP — and others — to hold off on such a device.

As little as three months ago, HP had few operating system choices to power a tablet and none of them offered the company complete control over both the hardware and software, a key strength that Apple (s aapl) leverages. HP could use Microsoft Windows 7, which as a desktop platform is overkill for a consumer tablet, or it could join the Android army and like so many other hardware manufacturers use Google’s (s goog) platform. But in April, HP proceeded to purchase Palm for $1.2 billion, and with it, the efficient webOS platform.

The Apple-like control of hardware, software and ecosystem that HP gains from webOS isn’t lost on the hardware company. After the Palm (s palm) deal was announced, Brian Humphries, SVP of corporate strategy and development at HP, noted this in a GigaOM interview:

Ultimately, the Palm webOS and Apple are the two that can scale best over multiple devices and we are going to compete with Apple going forward in the broader mobile category.

While I don’t completely agree with Humphries — it’s a mistake to overlook Google in this space — it’s evident that HP is staking its mobile future on the Palm deal. As a result, there’s simply no need for HP to create an Android tablet in the near future. Instead, the company can devote resources to extending webOS beyond the small screen of a smartphone, and if it doesn’t work out, Android can be used down the road if needed.

Another key reason HP is right to forget an Android tablet this year applies to other manufacturers as well. Simply put: No Android tablet created right now is going to be a success because of Android itself. Even the latest release of Android, version 2.2 (aka Froyo) is too limited for a tablet device. For starters, the highest resolution supported is 854×480. That’s great for a 4.3-inch device like the Motorola Droid X that launches today, but not for any tablet in the 6-to-10-inch range.

Even worse, Google still limits Android Market access to devices that meet certain hardware requirements and most tablets currently don’t meet those requirements. As the iPad has shown, a useful tablet can’t just have a good browser or email client. It needs a thriving developer community and access to a wide range of software applications. For an Android tablet to succeed — whether it’s built by HP or someone else — Android still needs time to mature. The operating system is great for a smartphone, but that doesn’t mean it’s great for a tablet just yet.

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14 Responses to “Why HP Should Shelve Android Tablet Plans”

  1. “HP is pretty confused and has lost focus at the moment!”

    Makes you wonder if there is an internal power struggle going on that makes the company schizo. As for WebOS, it doesn’t make that much sense to buy the horse and not race it. Patent portfolio is good, and software engineers could have put a WebOS sheen on android, but given the sum of money involved, it seems to me you sink or swim with WebOS. And that’s good as we consumers could use the competition.

    I think there is a faction in HP that realizes the future of PCs is limited, that HP is just a beige box me too, and the company needs to make a credible attempt to forge its own path, whether it leads to success or not.

  2. webitube

    WebOS: It seems more like HP is simply trying to get some value out of its investment.

    Android and 854×480: Yes, Froyo (v.2.2) has a less than desirable resolution for a tablet. But, the next version of Android (3.x/Gingerbread) which is slated for release at the end of this year will do at least 1280×720 which would be just fine. Also, by dropping Android, HP will fall further behind the Android curve. It almost seems like HP is going out of their way to avoid Android. Perhaps this is a variation of NIH syndrome.

    Developers – WebOS vs. Android: If I was building hardware which is so dependent on 3rd party developers and a thriving app ecosystem, perhaps rolling your own (WebOS) app store may not be the best solution.

    • Yup, the next version of Android should be usable on tablets based on what I’ve heard on the spec bumps as well. But only a few devices will likely launch in tandem with Android 3.0 if that comes to pass. It will take time for OEMs to get their hardware working with the updated OS except for a few partners that Google works with as the OS is being developed. And since HP has webOS, I don’t expect Google will reach out to HP when Dell, Acer, and others don’t have their own OS to work with.

      • If I had data that I could share, I would. But I don’t. ;) Call it my educated guess. I’d be very surprised if Google worked with a large group of partners all at once when Android better supports tablets.

  3. I am an HP fan but i would not support buying a PALM based tablet. I didn’t buy a Palm Pre or Plus because with the low acceptance came low interest in development. I agree that Win 7 OS is overkill but i think HP is making a mistake to take a pass on Droid OS, looks like I may be buying Dell or another manufatcurer in the future for tablets.

  4. Justin Benson

    Android is the new Windows. Mobile/Tablet devices the PC’s of the next decade. Having watched margins go to heck in the PC/Laptop space with no competitive differentiators vs a Dell or Acer why would you ever want to sign up for that again? Goodness me no. So even if Android WAS ready or Windows 7 wasn’t overkill they’d still be smart doing this.

  5. “No Android tablet created right now is going to be a success because of Android itself.”

    Wrong, and the reason doesn’t have to do with the technical merits of either platform (and I say this as someone who used WebOS on the Pre for a year and just switched to an Android phone). The reason has to do with developer ecosystem. Android has one; WebOS, not so much.

  6. HP is in good shape with WebOS if it executes fast. Real fast! Seriously, what have we heard out of them since the acquisition?

    I would focus on a pro-phone ala the larger Dell device. A phone/tablet could be a great business profile, particularly with Palm’s strength in messaging. Move up iteratively, but be sure to get apps like Salesforce.

    WebOS is the only OS ready to hit tablets successfully at the moment, but the market is “larger than a smart phone” not as a large as possible. If I could use an iPad as a phone, I would…

  7. Hey guys just relax. HP has to do it becoz it has to position itself and should have some differentiators. Their plan from start is WebOS only otherwise they wouldn’t bought the Palm. And who said Palm doesn’t has apps or devs they are there. Just go some deep in technical you will get it. If HP would gone with android it had become another sheep (HTC, Motorola, Samsung etc) in the herd and it would have become difficult to stand out from the herd. But if you see long term HP can adopt android anytime in future but it will not do it now. Right now is the only chance to do this way. Am looking forward to buy this tablet.