Last week Su-yin Yam, senior director of HP's consumer business in the Asia-Pacific, confirmed that the company will dive back into the smartphone business. The revelation was made at an event in Beijing, but Yam was unable to provide a specific timetable regarding when the company plans to re-enter the market.
"It would be silly if we say no," Yam told PTI. "HP has to be in the game."
HP sank 1.2 billion USD into its acquisition of Palm in April 2010, believing it would score big with webOS in both the smartphone and tablet sectors. Several phones and a tablet later, HP shelved additional plans for those two form factors in mid-2011, threatened to spin off its PC division, and began throwing up portions of webOS to the open-source community.
Since then, LG has licensed the OS to use in its Smart TVs (opens in new tab). HP slowly emerged back into the tablet scene with the 7 inch HP Slate 7 with Android and the ElitePad 900 G1 with Windows 8. The company will likely take the same slow approach with the smartphone sector, a path CEO Meg Whitman hinted to last September. She said the company needed to deliver a product in developing countries where people aren't scooping up tablet and notebooks.
That points to Android as the OS of choice: it's popular, doesn't come with a licensing fee, and has more market experience than the upcoming Firefox OS and Tizen. But HP will undoubtedly face fierce competition from the likes of Samsung, LG and Google-owned Motorola. As Yam said last week, HP's solution will need a differentiated experience.
"Being late you have to create a different set of proposition," Yam said. "There are still things that can be done. It's not late."
It's definitely not too late to enter the smartphone race: if fact, it's probably an excellent time. Both Nvidia and Qualcomm have produced chips with embedded 4G LTE connectivity. USB OTG technology adds peripheral connectivity and external storage, turning the phone into a pocket-seized desktop. NFC technology even allows users to tap their phone to pay the bill. There are so many things current smartphone technology could do to boost HP's own tablet and notebook line of products, it would be "silly" not to take part.
IDC predicts that emerging markets will account for 64.8 percent of all smartphones shipped in 2013, up from 43.1 percent in 2010. Overall, smartphone shipments are expected to grow 32.7 percent year-over-year, reaching 958.8 million units in 2013. Only 722.5 million units were shipped in 2012.