HP CEO Meg Whitman knows her company needs to get back into smartphones but don’t expect the move to happen next year.

“We don’t have any plans to introduce a smartphone in 2013,” Whitman said during HP’s analyst day on Wednesday.

Whitman did, however, acknowledge that not launching a new smartphone soon means missing out on a rapidly growing market. “I believe that, five years from now, if we don’t have a smartphone — or whatever the next generation of that device is — we’ll be locked out of a huge segment of the population in many countries, she said.

Whitman’s predictions come weeks after the CEO acknowledged that HP’s track record with smartphones has been a troubled one. But while Whitman’s comments should have been a rallying cry for HP to accelerate its smartphone development, it clearly wasn’t.

Which is, to be blunt, a huge, potentially disastrous mistake.

By 2014, both Android and iOS will have already had a seven-year head start. And Windows Phone? By then it’ll be four years old, which feels like decades in the technology world. This leaves HP with an extremely small window for success that’s narrowing by the day.

Worse, even HP’s consumer printer and PC businesses are floundering, which means that the company might not have even them to fall back on by 2014.

Little of this is Whitman’s fault; she inherited most of HP’s current problems. But while her recent comments are rare feats of corporate honesty, honesty doesn’t pay the bills.

Photo: Flickr/BENM.AT Live Coverage

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