HP CEO Meg Whitman Says Smartphone in the Plans
Is Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) CEO Meg Whitman too seasoned not to include a smartphone at some point in the company’s portfolio? Or, is HP so determined to serve up an entire smorgasbord of IT dishes that the company insists on having a place at the smartphone table, no matter how small the portion? Hmmm….let’s look a bit closer.
Last week Whitman told Fox News, as reported here among other outlets, that HP was working on a smartphone. “In the end, I would love to be able to provide all the way from the most fabulous workstations to desktops to laptops to our tablets and convertibles all the way to smartphones,” she said. That certainly sounds like the “all things to all people” strategy HP has been pursuing to what can best be described as mixed results since ousting former chief Leo Apotheker this time a year ago.
Still in full view, of course, is HP’s fumbling, stumbling, bumbling and losing the smartphone ball once already with its $1.2 billion Palm buyout and subsequent WebOS thumb bashing, but to argue that, as a result, HP should be smartphone risk averse is more than a tepid overreach.
Whitman, in referring the Palm debacle as a “detour,” said “we’ve got to get it right this time. My mantra to the team is ‘better right than faster than we should be there.’ We’re working to make sure that when we do this it will be the right thing for Hewlett-Packard and we will be successful.”
Alright, fair enough, but what’s the market opportunity? In other words, can HP get a place at the table with more than a few crumbs left? Probably not, especially if you believe some of the most recent research on the smartphone market. A new report from Global Equities Research, as reported here, argues that by the end of this year, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) together will hold up to 98 percent of mobile device sales. Although the gutsy projection comes from interviews with only 15 iOS and Android developers, it can be argued, as Global analyst Trip Chowdhry has, the developers’ headlights illuminate the market’s direction.
“There will not be any third spot left,” Chowdhry is quoted as saying. “Nokia, Microsoft and RIM [Research In Motion] will struggle in the remaining 2 percent of the market.”
Other researchers agree to a point with IDC pegging Apple’s and Google’s OS command at 85 percent of the market, and, in terms of unit sales, Apple and Samsung owning some 50 percent worldwide. The remainder is divvied up among Nokia, HTC and a host of also-rans, and that’s not even considering Windows Phone trying to snip a corner or two for itself. Think HP is going to settle for back-of-the-pack status among smartphone makers?
Even with a closed off market, Whitman may have hinted a bit to an HP smartphone strategy that might work should the vendor eventually deliver a smartphone—build the brand outside of the U.S. “We have to ultimately offer a smartphone because in many countries of the world that is your first computing device. We’re a computing company, we have to take advantage of that form factor,” she said.
It will be interesting to see if the strategy Whitman seems to be suggesting is the course that the vendor initially follows.