HP Spells Out Their (webOS) Ecosystem Strategy

Yes, that’s right: HP has essentially told us how they plan to attack the consumer technology market. Richard Gerstein, HP’s Senior VP of Worldwide Strategy and Marketing for the Personal Systems Group (PSG, also known as the group that includes Palm and webOS), spoke with Brandweek and laid out their strategy. Unless he’s talking completely out of turn, it looks something like this:

Brandweek: So you think there’s only room for two to four players in consumer tech right now?
Richard Gerstein:
I think there’s only a space for two to four [companies] that provide a seamless, multi-device, software-enabled ecosystem, which is what consumers are ultimately looking for.

BW: So, it’s HP and who else?
RG:
Clearly, Apple today has done the job; they’ve created that. I think when you go past Apple and HP, it becomes questionable who’s next.

That’s it, folks: HP plans to create a “seamless, multi-device, software-enabled ecosystem” to meet and likely exceed Apple’s offering (HP can offer things Apple can’t, of course, like multifunction devices and printers). If you still wonder why they’re taking a little time (or a lot, depending on your perspective) in pushing out new industry-beating webOS devices, then there’s your answer.

As ex-CEO Mark Hurd said, HP didn’t buy Palm to get into the smartphone business. Indeed, in all likelihood, HP really doesn’t see the smartphone business as terribly important by itself, but rather as one component in a whole range of interconnected devices. And so, HP simply isn’t in a hurry to push out smartphone hardware when there’s so much software and ecosystem to build out.

I’ll repeat that part, because it’s so important: HP is not in a hurry to push out hardware when there’s so much software and ecosystem to build out.

In a year or so, I believe we’ll see HP much farther along in integrating all of the cloud services, software assets, and media content partnerships that they’ve been acquiring or building into just the sort of ecosystem that can take on Apple. Until then, I think we can expect to see just the sort of subdued approach that we’re seeing today.

Note that I agree with Mr. Gerstein completely: HP and Apple are the only two companies that can achieve this level of integrated solution. You simply can’t throw Microsoft or Google into this mix, in spite of their strengths in software and cloud services, because neither company controls their own hardware destiny. And of course RIM doesn’t play in this at all, although the Playbook is an obvious indicator that they see the strategy’s validity.

Beyond spelling out HP’s long-term strategy, Mr. Gerstein also had a few other fascinating tidbits to convey. This first one is a doozy:

BW: Speaking of which, are you going to keep the Palm name?
RG:
Clearly, what we’ve announced is that it will be branded HP. It will HP computers and phones (sic). We are still working through the role of the the Palm name after that.

So, yes, according to him the continued existence of the Palm brand isn’t quite so set in stone as some of us might have wanted to believe. And from this it’s clear that HP is at least considering putting the Palm name into much more of a backseat position.

This next one’s not a surprise at all:

BW: Do you see the Slate as a consumer device?
RG:
Next year we will have a Web OS-based Slate device for the consumer side. 

And finally, yes, HP actually does understand just how dynamic the technology market really is:

BW: You’ve been in a few different industries. How is marketing computers uniquely challenging?
RG:
I think a lot of the fundamentals still apply. The positive and the negative is it’s extremely fast-paced. You also still have the ability for unbelievably disruptive technologies to come through. It’s tough to really “disrupt” laundry detergent. I mean, you can do some cool things, but it’s not disruptive. It’s not like a smart phone coming in. So with that positive, that’s really exciting. You can change market share positions, you can do lots of different things. You can talk to consumers about innovation. On the opposite side, as a marketer, you have to keep up with it all.

It’s important to note, though, that because HP understands this dynamic nature, they’re even less inclined to hurry along the next generation of webOS devices. Instead, they likely believe (as do I) that the right products can disrupt such a dynamic market at any time, whether it’s today or a year from now. The key words there, though, are “the right products,” meaning that putting something decent out today is not nearly as effective as putting out something superb tomorrow. Most important, “superb” means more than just a powerful superphone with all the bells and whistles—it means a “seamless, multi-device, software-enabled ecosystem.”

Keep that phrase in mind, folks. I think we’re going to be hearing it for some time to come.

Comments

  1. DigitalYout' says:

    Intresting read as always Mark.

  2. Welp, this article seems right on the money even after HP’s big reveal. Can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

  3. HP announced not one but two new phones based on HP webOS.Packed with snapdragon processors and touchscreen plus full qwerty keyboards they are truly revolutionary when used with HP’s Touchsmart technology.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by jose armando ordaz, jose armando ordaz and AboutwebOS, AboutwebOS. AboutwebOS said: Wondering why we're "still" waiting for #webOS superphones? Then consider this: http://bit.ly/9sJaGa @Palm @HP_PC [...]

  2. [...] company, and only Apple and HP have that capability. Mark Coppock, our friend from aboutwebOS, agrees with him saying: HP and Apple are the only two companies that can achieve this level of integrated solution. [...]

  3. [...] Stanley agrees with a position I’ve been taking for awhile now: the nascent nature of the smartphone market means that there’s [...]

  4. [...] ecosystem in the mobile space. It’s unclear how HP plans to build out their ecosystem, although they’ve hinted that they definitely plan to do so. At this point, though, webOS essentially has no ecosystem, and so there’s really no [...]

  5. [...] ecosystem in the mobile space. It’s unclear how HP plans to build out their ecosystem, although they’ve hinted that they definitely plan to do so. At this point, though, webOS essentially has no ecosystem, and so there’s really no [...]

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