Friday, July 02, 2010

Palm Will Live On at HP

NEW VIDCAST: A Message to the Palm Developer Community from HP PC on Vimeo.

The interview of HP CTO Phil McKinney by two of Palm's developer relations team reassures Palm owners that HP will continue to invest in Palm devices and WebOS under the HP umbrella. Palm will continue to exist as a subsidiary of HP in their mobile products division and Jon Rubenstein will continue to run Palm with responsibility for WebOS. It is clear that HP has other ideas for WebOS beyond just smartphones into tablets, slates, and even printers.

HP is demonstrating their support of Palm in several ways. They have lowered barriers for developers to submit apps to the App Catalog by eliminating their $50 fee for App Catalog submission.  Now even casual developers like me may finish and submit and app.  McKinney offered to provide free Pres to the first 1,000 employees that develop WebOS apps. He said that the response was overwhelming.  They are investing in WebOS development to get it on par with Android. A new release will fully create a protected sandbox for PDK applications such as 3D gaming, and Flash is eminent.  Hopefully we will seen updated API for the phone, sound, and camera so we can have voice search, visual voicemail, Skype, and video chatting.  I would expect that GPU acceleration will be coming as well.  Ars Technia, Engadget, and other sites have rumored that HP will release a WebOS slate this fall with WebOS-enabled printers not far behind.  Let’s hope that HP leverages the Touchstone for the slate too.  HP’s CTO hinted at both items in his interview with Ben and Dion. 

One of Palm’s greatest weaknesses, due to lack of budget, has been in marketing.  After CTIA two years ago, Palm lost mind-share.  I’m sure that Palm blew a ton of money on the “spooky lady” ads, but they have not been successful in raising the visibility of the phones or WebOS.  Needless to say, Palm's marketing has been very anemic. The modest success they have enjoyed has been through mainly through the carriers that sell their phones. It is almost as if the people running the channel program were disjoint from the marketing people. Palm had the opportunity to retain mind-share before Android, and they failed to do so. Their limited number of devices and carriers at that time allowed Motorola, Google, and HTC to obtain greater visibility.  Palm has a very loyal following that they failed to capitalize except for the development community.  They failed to convert all of the Treo users to Pre and Pixi users as they left for Blackberries and iPhones.  Positioning of the Pixi was a bit off too.  Instead of pidgin-holing it as a “soccer mom” device (which it is), they needed to expand it as a starter smartphone for kids and baby-boomers that are just buying their first smart phone.  I still contend that Palm should have hired me for their marketing, but that’s another story. 

Palm restarted their marketing and awareness campaign about the time of the HP announcement.  Their $1 million Hot Apps contests are a great way to excite the development community, and their advertising is more Apple-like.  Even though the Treo market has evaporated, HP needs to win-over Blackberry users for corporate use.  HP has already started down this path by adding the Pre and Pixi to their SMB store and marketing it as a no-brains enterprise device.  The next step is to create public awareness for WebOS devices.  Think eco-system HP.  If I have a Pre then I would want the slate so my apps can run on it as well.  Now if I could take a picture on my Pre and print it directly on my WebOS printer wirelessly or make a movie on my slate and store it on my home server to watch later on the TV and simultaneously send it to YouTube, I would not even need to interact with my PC unless I wanted to edit the video.  These examples are the easy ones that can lock customers into HP products and develop that loyal following similar to Apple. 

As the largest computer manufacturer in the world, HP has the clout to be just as visible as Apple and Google. The first place to start is by winning over the geek community with demos of new WebOS features and devices.  Build that grassroots support through the geek community first then building to carrier excitement by demonstrating some of these applications through HP Labs.  Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint, is out touting his HTC EVO as the world’s first 4G phone.  Get Verizon to really push a LTE-capable Pre2 before they get locked in to Motorola, and do the same for a couple of international carriers.  Show the vision and sell what you have today, but keep the vision based on reality that the common consumer can relate.  Let's hope that HP starts putting some of that creativity to work to demonstrate the beauty of WebOS. Now the battle for mobile OS will be interesting to watch.

in reference to: HP CTO Phil McKinney sits down with Ben and Dion | (view on Google Sidewiki)

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