HP’s consumer expertise plus Nokia’s tablet nous adds up to disaster, says Peter Judge
The news that HP is having another crack at mobile consumers again will provoke derision. Reports that a new HP Mobility unit is apparently doing so under the leadership of a former Nokia exec laces the whole idea with doom.
Hewlett-Packard has periodically tried to sell consumer devices, but it usually goes wrong. It had a deal to sell Apple iPods in 2004 which ended disastrously. It also attempted to sell tablets and phones running the Palm-created WebOS operating system but that was a failure too.
HP versus Apple in tablets?
The story we have is that HP is planning a consumer-oriented mobility unit. Firstly, to remove any confusion: there is no indication that WebOS will be involved. That was spun off into a separate outfit called Gram and nobody (possibly including the Gram staff) knows what it will be doing.
No, the group, under former Nokia exec Alberto Torres, is going to be inside HP itself, working with the PC group and therefore pretty definitely working on Windows 8 tablets. Since HP has backed out of ARM based Windows RT tablets, we are talking about Windows 8 tablets based on x86 processors.
That’s a shame for consumer-oriented products, as ARM systems are likely to be more consumer friendly. However, Microsoft’s plans for its own cheap Surface tablet based on ARM have caused other vendors to think twice about using that platform to establish a new category of tablet.
So it looks like HP is taking on the Apple iPad, using a Windows-based product. It also looks like it will be led by Torres, who spent his time at Nokia working on MeeGo, the Linux-based OS which only saw the light of day in the N9 smartphone before Nokia ditched it for Windows Phone (MeeGo, like WebOS, has a retirement plan – a start-up called Jolla staffed with other ex-Nokia people, is planning to develop it on phones for the Chinese market).
HP doesn’t do consumer mobile products. It has sold a lot of laptops through channels, and a lot of printers – despite a universal hate for its overpriced ink products. Its phones have always flopped.
The fact that it is trying this new tack using a problematic platform, and the leadership of someone with the wrong track record, adds to the virtual certainty of failure.
Ironically, until the start of this year, the company could have called on someone with the right experience and skills to get the job done properly. Jon Rubinstein, the designer of the original iPod, was CEO of Palm and executing a probably-doomed-but-very-exciting campaign there based around WebOS and the Pre, when HP bought the company in 2010. Rubinstein stuck around at HP for a year or two, but finally left in January this year.
Imagine what HP might have done if it could have tapped his creativity for some actually-enticing consumer tablets. They would have been a lot more desirable than what we will most likely get.
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