Hewlett-Packard Snubs Google to Become the Next Apple

Now that its purchase of Palm is complete, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) is getting cocky about its proprietary webOS platform.

All Things Digital is reporting that HP's new tablet -- the one powered by Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android and set to hit the market later this year -- has been delayed. It won't come out until next year, if it even comes out at all.

Here we go again, HP.

You may remember the HP Slate. Steve Ballmer was brandishing a prototype back in January, gushing about the pairing of HP's touchscreen tablet with Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Windows 7 operating system as a springboard.

Well, that device was given a springtime axing. Instead, HP would concentrate on an Android-flavored tablet.

It seemed like a prudent move at the time. Android is open source, so it's a lot cheaper than licensing Microsoft's operating system. Android is also giving Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iOS a good run for the money in the smartphone market, with more Android handsets sold in this country during the first quarter than iPhone devices. Why not take on the iOS iPads with Android tablets?

Nope. It's time for Plan C at HP. It's likely the printing and computing giant will now concentrate on making its Palm webOS tablet operating system. If successful, this could be huge for HP. Instead of cranking out Android tablets like everybody else could, it would take a page out of Apple's playbook as the lone source for webOS tablets.

It's a blueprint that looks good on paper, but is crummy in application.

For starters, the clock continues to tick.

With Apple on pace to sell more than a million iPads every month, every day that a rival tablet isn't on the market results in a growing gap of tens of thousands of iPads sold that day. It's hard to fathom someone taking on Apple, especially if they miss the 2010 holiday season.

The second drawback to HP's strategy is that Android sells. With my apologies to Palm Pre and Pixi owners, history shows that webOS does not. HP's mighty marketing muscle will certainly improve its chances. It's also easy to understand that HP would rather give it a go with its own webOS than strengthen the position of a rival with Android support. However, at the end of the day, consumers will crave Android and Windows 7 tabletry if they want a proven alternative to Apple's iPad.

If HP focuses too narrowly on webOS, it would let Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) and Asian rivals flood the market with Android tablets, laptops, and desktops while it champions a niche platform in obscurity.

Yes, Apple was once in a similar position. But even it realized the need to reach the masses by making sure that iTunes also ran on Windows as a way to turn the iPod into a mainstream hit that triggered the company's renaissance.

P.S.: You're no Apple, HP.

Is HP really trying to be Apple Lite? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation, Google is a Rule Breakers pick, and Apple is a Stock Advisor choice. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is starting to see more smartphone products creep into his home, but he does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2010, at 10:22 AM, jd22284 wrote:

    It's really going to be about what HP can bring to the platform and how quickly they can do it... WebOS is a very lightwieght flexible OS and is perfect for a tablet. Apple's continued distain for Flash will hamper complete adoption of the Ipad as a Laptop/Netbook replacement WebOS Supports Flash 10.1 giving them instant access to the real internet and if every HP printer uses WebOS going forward that will mean no driver installtion to use any HP accessory. It sounds like being Apple is excatly what HP is trying to accomplish and Apple is being just enough like Microsoft of the 90's to let it happen...

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