HP is no stranger to smartphones, although its previous effort in that segment proved disastrous. In 2010, the company acquired Palm for $1.2 billion and set to work installing the latter’s webOS (a mobile OS built around a Linux kernel) in smartphones and tablets. But its first high-profile effort, the HP TouchPad, proved such a failure on the open marketplace that the company yanked it from store shelves after a mere six weeks; its webOS phones were similarly dead on arrival.
In February 2013, LG Electronics announced it had acquired webOS from HP for an undisclosed sum. “As part of the transaction, LG also will receive licenses under HP’s intellectual property (IP) for use with its webOS products,” read LG’s press release on the matter, “including patents acquired from Palm covering fundamental operating system and user interface technologies.” (HP continues to hold onto some patents related to the technology.)
That acquisition left HP at something of a crossroads—if it ever wants to enter the mobile-device arena again, it’ll essentially need to start from scratch. For months, rumors have circulated that HP is prototyping Android smartphones to accompany its Android tablets already on the market; given how the company apparently views Microsoft as a “competitor” (in the words of CEO Meg Whitman), it seems unlikely to opt for Windows Phone as an OS.
(Of course, if HP really wanted to get wild, it could always opt for an up-and-coming operating system such as Firefox OS; but considering its negative experience with webOS, betting big on nascent software probably isn’t its first choice.)
With PC sales anemic and its services business facing a crowded marketplace, HP has little choice but to explore the mobile-device market. According to The Information, these new Android phones will target developing countries, with a lower price to match; but it remains to be seen how—and when—the company ultimately launches its reboot.