Battling against the odds
The next major version of the flagship HP/Palm smartphone - the Pre 3 - has gone on sale on the Palm Store for £299 SIM-free. A competitive price and a big moment for HP, you'd think, but we have seen no evidence of any PR activity whatsoever around the launch.
This is odd. When the Pre 2 was launched back in October there was at least the standard ‘we're so excited' commentary from HP, but nothing this time. HP has also completed its move from TI to Qualcomm by putting the MSM8x55 into the Pre 3. This isn't the best Snapdragon it could have chosen, but presumably contributes to the competitive price. Surely this is all worth troubling the tech press about.
Furthermore, despite already having a web page on the Pre 3, Orange told handset site Recombu that it won't be stocking the phone after all. We're not aware of any mobile operators supporting the Pre 3 right now.
At the same time All Things D reports that HP is struggling to sell the TouchPad tablet on the other side of the pond, despite having cut its price by $100 (a concession not extended to the UK). Apparently tech retail giant Best Buy has ordered 270,000 TouchPads, but has managed to sell 25,000, at most, since the launch last month.
This is causing strains in the relationship between the two companies, apparently, with Best Buy asking HP to take a bunch of them back, and HP telling them to be patient. It seems that other US retailers are relating similar experiences.
In our reflections on the Googorola deal yesterday we concluded it's probably only possible for three mobile platforms to succeed in the mass-market. Android and iOS already have their places assured, and the front-runner for the bronze is Microsoft's WP7. Despite the many obituaries already being written RIM is not dead, so that puts webOS firmly in fifth.
HP is in a Catch 22 position. With so few customers and such large and successful competitors it's hard for HP to convince developers to invest their time in webOS, and is having incentivise them just to give it a go. And with relatively few apps it's hard for HP to convince end-users to go for its products rather than those using iOS or Android.
The reasons behind HP buying Palm - for a tenth of what Google is paying for Motorola - were sound. We're now seeing that all the power lies in the hands of the platform-owner, and HP wanted to be able control its own fate in mobile. But it may be time for HP to admit that it lacks the momentum or resources to compete with the big four in the mass-market, and instead focus its efforts instead on more niche enterprise solutions.
Pulling out of the consumer market would also allow HP to license webOS to third parties such as Samsung and HTC - who must be feeling rather threatened by the Googorola deal - without competing with them itself.