HP's Soon-To-Be Announced Smartphone Is Probably Too Little Too Late

Meg WhitmanHPHP CEO Meg Whitman

HP is expected to finally introduce a smartphone, maybe even this week, making good on a promise made by CEO Meg Whitman way back in September, 2012.

9to5Google was the first to report the news of HP’s smartphone. It’ll be an Android phone.

That’s when Whitman told Fox Business that HP has to:

“ultimately offer a smartphone, because in many countries in the world that is your first computing device. You know, there will be countries around the world where people may never own a tablet or a PC or desktop. They will do everything on the smartphone. We’re a computing company, we have to take advantage of that form factor.”

So, no surprise, the leaked information about the new smartphone suggests that it’s a low-cost Android phone, with a bigger display, designed to compete with Samsung, according to Information.

The phone is expected to be part of the “phablet” genre, where the device is part phone, part tablet. It’ll cost under $US250 and will initially be released only in China, India, and the Philippines, but not the U.S.

The problem is, it’s also expected to be rather vanilla − similar to a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, but without the Note’s special features, according to reports from Chinese tech pub DigiTimes.

HP’s strategy is to use it’s extensive PC supply chain to get parts at a great price and then pass those savings to customers in emerging markets, DigiTimes reports.

But the market is already crowded with big, low-cost Android phones. So, HP’s first efforts could be too little, too late.

And that means that if HP is going to do this, the company is going to have to stick with it for a long time, probably years, before HP strikes on a successful balance cost and innovation. HP doesn’t have a big history of sticking it out in this market, and the company is in dire need of growth. Nearly all of its business units are shrinking. It needs something that will be a big hit, fast, not another long-term investment.

On the plus side, HP is a hardware engineering company. It should be able to produce top-notch, better-than-average hardware for a competitive price. It could become the “Nokia” of Android phones, for example. (Nokia is also an engineering company that produces top-notch hardware. But it’s fate is tied to Windows Phone, a less popular operating system than Android or iPhone, market research reports show. Nokia has also done pretty well selling budget-friendly Windows Phones.)

HP may eventually be able to come up with a smartphone device that somehow taps into its other assets, like its cloud. Perhaps if it offers a bunch of free apps with the phone, which will makes HP’s device more appealing.

But HP doesn’t have the chops in software that it does in hardware, and this tactic runs the danger of filling the phone with unwanted software, known as bloatware.

So again, HP has an uphill battle ahead of it in the smartphone market.

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