Hewlett-Packard isn’t commenting on a rumor that it’s preparing to launch an inexpensive Android smartphone for emerging markets.
Such a move, reported by 9to5Google, wouldn’t be surprising given the need for one of the world’s largest PC makers to move into the mobile market. HP tried to do this before with its abortive acquisition of Palm and its WebOS mobile operating system. But we all know how that billion-dollar acquisition ended.
“HP will expand to additional mobility categories and form factors where we believe we can offer differentiated value to our customers,” a spokeswoman for HP said. “As previously communicated, HP will bring smartphones to market but is not giving a timetable.”
The report says that HP is apparently trying again to enter mobile, as early as this week, with a $200 smartphone aimed at markets such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Former Nokia Meego executive Alberto Torres, the senior vice president of mobility at HP, is reportedly heading the group.
Chief executive Meg Whitman has said that HP has to offer a smartphone because it is the computing device of first choice in many parts of the world. But she hasn’t said when yet.
HP’s engineering team is quite familiar with Android. The company has launched a multi-operating system strategy, with the launch of Windows machines, ChromeOS laptops, and Android laptops. At the 2014 International CES, HP showed off its latest Android-based all-in-one desktop computer aimed at small businesses. The $399 device ran all sorts of mobile apps, including an Android clone of Microsoft’s Office.
“Any company who wants to be a player in the future of client computing needs to participate in the phone market, and this includes HP,” said Patrick Moorhead, analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “End users are disaggregating their experiences across, wearables, phones, TVs, consoles, cars, tablets and PCs, and participation in the phone market appears like a requirement. If it’s not this year, then surely HP would need to enter by 2015 to even get a piece of the emerging regions.”
Kevin Krewell, an analyst for Tirias Research, said, “It’s easy for HP or any OEM to launch an Android phone. There a many ODMs (original design manufacturers) in China with smartphone designs that HP can stick its name on. The hard part is how HP can differentiate itself from all the other Android phones. HP should attach a specific segment, such as corporate or small business, and bundle services specific to that segment.”
Meanwhile, Nathan Brookwood, analyst at Insight 64, said, “Better late than never! By offering a phone that plays with an established ecosystem, HP can avoid the pitfalls that killed its earlier WebOS products. And by targeting a low unsubsidized selling price, it might have a chance in those emerging markets where Apple is priced too high to achieve significant market share.”