Since the Palm buyout went down, we have heard very little from HP about webOS, specifically about webOS handsets. The floating rumor towards the end of 2010 was that we would see one webOS device every two months throughout the year. We're now entering the fifth month of 2011 and the second webOS device is now eleven days out, well behind the expected pace – implying the rumor was ever true.
Unfortunately, this phone that we get to see in eleven days isn't quite the handset we were hoping for; it isn't the 4-inch slab that at the mere thought of it made us drool over our keyboards. Instead, it is one of the devices that was announced back at the webOS event HP hosted in February: the Veer and Pre 3. May 15th will be the official release day of the Veer, a more compact version of the form factor we've grown to know and...well, likely grown bored with.
So if HP isn't churning out new phones, what exactly are they doing?
To me, it seems as if HP had other intentions for the webOS platform from the start. Instead of focusing on releasing a plethora of mobile handsets and fighting for that precious mobile market share, HP has been focusing on the operating system itself and how they can grow both development for it and popularity. Because let's be honest, what is a mobile platform these days without a few hundred thousand apps?
Instead of outfitting six different handsets with different form factors – like the rumor implied – HP has announced and clearly shown that they want to build an entire ecosystem, not just a strong line of phones.
Every HP computer in 2012 will be fitted with webOS and like most Android manufacturers, HP has strong intentions to stake their claim in the tablet world, too. I could definitely be wrong, but the tablet space seems to be of the greatest interest to HP as they've been touting their lusty tablet every chance they get, even showing the TouchPad off in a music video. What about their phones? Not a chance. They've been hiding in the shadows, silent, since the event in February.
Don't get me wrong, I love webOS and some of HP's devices look nice. Very nice, actually. I'm even considering picking up a Pre 3 myself when it finally launches. But with one basic form factor, it's impossible for HP to win everyone over with webOS, regardless of how fluid and intuitive the platform actually is. They're up against Apple, who definitely has a grasp on how to design a phone, and Android, a platform with a handful of powerful manufacturers outing phones in all sorts of different styles. HP needs some diversity in their camp or something at least stir the kettle before things get too stagnant.
Who knows, maybe they're looking for a backdoor into the vicious mobile world, looking to avoid all unnecessary collateral damage (i.e.: botched phone releases). If they can establish some credibility and a fan base in the computer realm and the infant tablet world, maybe they can bridge the three worlds together and make people want their handsets so they can utilize that tight-knit ecosystem.
One thing is for sure though, HP has been walking, not running, with their mobile handset lineup. Unlike Apple, who is already well established and can get away with releasing one device (or a second with nothing but a new color) per year, HP needs to stir things up for what few fans they have left with a neat device and a new form factor. That is, before those few jump ship to another rapidly advancing platform.
Can't you hear us, HP? We're rooting for you. Oh, and we want some more phones, too.