It's Too Late, HP

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It's never too late to begin the reinvention process, but Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) may be biting off more than it can chew this time. Speaking on Fox Business on Friday, HP CEO Meg Whitman revealed that the company is working on a smartphone.

"We have to ultimately offer a smartphone because in many countries of the world that is your first computing device," she said. "There will be countries around the world where people may never own a tablet, or a PC, or a desktop."

Whitman deserves props for getting it right, but correctly seeing the future doesn't guarantee that you will be a part of it.

Her comments aren't as incendiary as Nokia's (NYSE: NOK  ) "burning platform" remark last year, but she's getting warm. Besides, HP already burned investors when it forked over roughly $1 billion for Palm more than two years ago, only to eventually shut it down.

The market isn't always kind when it comes to second chances. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) is throwing billions at Nokia to promote Lumia as the flagship Windows Phone handset, hoping that consumers forget about its short-lived Kin. However, even the mighty Microsoft is facing the daunting challenge that Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android and Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iOS present to anyone going this route.

The only silver lining here is that Android is available to HP as the world's mobile operating system of choice, just as it was able to champion Windows as the desktop operating system of choice. It will have to compete with Samsung, HTC, and every other hungry Asian smartphone maker out there, but there are already online reports of an HP-branded smartphone -- under the Bender code name -- running Android.

The problem is that you know it won't end there. HP will want to do more than any of the countless Android handsets in a cutthroat market. Maybe it does something stupid like follow Nokia into Microsoft's checkbook. Maybe it tries to breathe new life into webOS. Maybe it foolishly believes it can build off Android to create its own ecosystem.

All of those roads would lead to failure, but that's what happens when you're too late to take the right road.

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The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Apple, and Google and creating a bull call spread position in Apple and a synthetic covered call position in Microsoft. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He owns no shares in any of the stocks in this story and is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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  • Report this Comment On September 18, 2012, at 11:41 PM, llIlllIlllIlllIl wrote:

    It would be incredibly foolish indeed if HP tried to go down the Android route. Only Samsung is making money from Android. One shocking fact is the state of HTC now, with all its focus on Android, is in a worse position than even the lowest of the old Windows Mobile era:

    HP has a chance if it focusses on Windows 8 and RT tablets, combined with Windows Phone 8 for phones.

    But with the stunning Lumia 920 as its competition, it will be a tough road ahead. Maybe dip its toes in the water by licensing the 920 from Nokia with HP branding and colours and coordinate this with HP laptops/tablets and accessories...

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