HP: Investing Heavily in webOS R&D, Looking Into Tablets

We're still reeling from the news that Palm has just been bought by HP. It's a bold move by both companies, but one that we're sure is going to take off well. HP wanted to clarify their position on the purchase, along with shine a light on a few of the reasons why they thought buying the house that built webOS would be a good idea. To do that, they had Todd Bradley of HP take the reigns of a live webcast and go over some of the major points, along with some of the finer details. You can find a Q&A session after the break, which does a good job of bringing it all together.

Q. Android has a tremendous amount of momentum in the marketplace, why pick up webOS?

A. The breadth of products represents an enormous opportunity. It's an early market – we believe developer support for webOS will grow. We believe in choice, and we believe to remain a strategic partner with Microsoft. There's a unique opportunity to create products with webOS.

Q. What's the timeline to evolve webOS to run on HP hardware and specifically on different form-factors with larger screens?

A. We need to get the transaction closed before we talk timelines.

Q. Can you talk about the competitive landscape – where do you see devices running webOS, are they consumer first or corporate?

A. While Palm currently has smartphones, that's a space that's very consumer oriented. We're looking at how to broaden our distribution. Tablets and slates are such new categories, we're still looking at that. There's terrific interest in terms of vertical deployment.

Q. You referenced leveraging your strategic positions, what would you characterise HP's position at the carrier level, and how will they help alleviate the challenges Palm has faced?

A. Investments in building out application/developer capabilities will be very important. As we build our execution plans we focus on leveraging several larger carriers – that will provide a significant growth platform going forward.

Q. Will the Palm R&D team remain separate within HP?

A. We intend to operate it as a business unit, in line with the structure today. Jon Rubinstein is excited at the opportunity it represents to build out the platform.

Q. Will iPaq remain on WinMo and Palm on webOS, or will they merge?

A. We haven't made those decisions, and won't until after the deal is finalised.

Q. We've seen Apple succeeding as a content platform in addition to hardware – they're doing a lot of content aggregation. Do you intend to get into that side of the business moving forward?

A. Our focus is to provide connected devices that allow people to connect seamlessly to their information whether that be work or entertainment. We're not going to get into specifics of strategy until we finalise the transaction.

Q. Palm are spending around $190m a year on R&D – do you think that's adequate?

A. We'll be putting more money into all of it – investing heavily not only in R&D but in sales & marketing

HP is taking this very seriously, just as we expected them to. And while the details are being kept close to the vest right now by both companies, we can expect to learn a lot more as the months lead us into the future. There's obviously a point where Palm and HP will have to decide on the current Palm handsets being worked on, and which of those will make it to the real world, but with HP's wide range of funds, R&D, and reach into almost every angle in the tech market, Palm seems to be in capable, and wealthy, hands.

Analysts seem to agree that this is a great move for Palm and HP. Michael Gartenberg, a partner with Altimeter Group, commented on his personal site, saying that "Palm has found a good home." He also believes that "webOS should now be viewed as a serious contender in the mobile platform wars." With the software development started by Palm, HP has a strong, multitasking powerhouse of a mobile Operating System that they can only capitalize on, and HP obviously plans to do just that. Ross Rubin, Executive Director of Industry Analysis for Consumer Technology at NPD, believes that "webOS will help diversify mobile offerings from the computing giant." And with this talk of tablets, netbooks, along with the addition of more smartphones, that's not a bad thing at all.