The Smartphone business has been very busy this week. One day before Verizon officially releases the Droid Incredible (I am tracking mine via Federal Express), HP scoops in and acquires Palm. Palm does have some pretty good technology and mobile handset know-how. Do they have $1.2 Billion worth? HP says yes and, anyway – that’s just a rounding error for them.
If you have seen the Web OS on Palm’s devices you have to be impressed. Why this really makes sense for HP is that it is so much more than Smart Phones. Perhaps you noticed that Apple iPad launch last month? Tablet and netbook computing are the next disruptive technologies. The Palm OS will likely make a bigger near term impact on HPs tablet and netbook devices. This is not good news for Microsoft.
The OS landscape for the sub-laptop market is rapidly fragmenting. Android from Google, Chrome OS (Google competing with itself?), Web OS from Palm, Apple OS4, Windows 7, Windows 7 mobile, RIM and Symbian (Nokia). The environments that appear limited in scope are RIM and Windows 7 mobile (just SmartPhone) and Windows7, Chrome OS (Netbooks). Android, Palm Web OS, Apple OS and Symbian all provide (in theory) a unified sub-laptop platform.
What’s a developer to do? Can an OS thrive with a single hardware vendor – Steve Jobs would certainly say yes, so why not HP?
The near term loser is likely Microsoft. By the time they have Windows Mobile 7 devices in the market, HP/Palm should have been able to iterate an upgraded device and spend significant marketing bucks attracting both consumers and developers.
All of this competition is good for innovation and good for consumer price points. It will take at least another 3-4 years for this market to shake out completely. When the dust settles you can count on Apple and Microsoft still standing – their present overall positions in OS technology are virtually unassailable. What will be interesting is their relative market strength in this very interesting sub-laptop market.
If you dominate this new market you are THE company for the next generation.
HP has placed their chips on the table. Who is next?