HP has completed the acquisition of struggling smartphone manufacturer Palm.
The Palm Pre had been well received by critics and analysts but launched into a competetive landscape it struggled to compete with the Apple iPhone and the RIM Blackberry. HP said that the combination gives the company "significant headway into one of technology’s fastest-growth segments."
HP stated an intention to continue development of smartphones but interestingly also said Palm business unit will be "responsible for webOS software development and webOS based hardware products, from a robust smartphone roadmap to future slate PCs and netbooks."
This appears to suggest that the company sees a future of smartphones, tablets and netbooks all running webOS. Prior to the acquisition the tablets and netbooks would have been based on Windows 7 so the move likely represents a shift away from dependence on the Microsoft OS. Such a move follows a number of developers in renouncing Windows 7 support on tablets and instead announcing upcoming devices based on Android, even Microsoft stalwart Dell launched a crossover 5-inch tablet device in the form of the Android-powered Dell Streak.
“With webOS, HP will deliver its customers a unique and compelling experience across smartphones and other mobility products,” said Todd Bradley, executive vice president, Personal Systems Group, HP. “This allows us the opportunity to fully engage in growing our smartphone family offering and the footprint of webOS.”
As the list of alternative mobile operating systems continues to grow with operating systems like the MeeGo (Nokia and Intel) and Bada (Samsung), manufacturers increasingly appear willing to bet on an integrated solutions with their own operating system, likely enticed by the promise of a cut of software via integrated digital distribution platforms.
HP's announcement of future webOS netbook products would, however, appear to cross over into an area that continues to be dominated by Windows and perhaps signals willingness to take the fight more broadly with the rich set of IP and technology acquired from Palm.
While the HP announcement looks like short term bad news for Microsoft, the company may have new handsets based on the new Windows Phone 7 arriving before HP gets up to speed with its Palm acquisition.
PCR discusses the rise of alternative operating systems and the role digital distribution is playing and asks if the end is nigh for disks?