Monday, January 3, 2011

Tablet Today: Where Is HP and Dell?

Everyone know that HP and Dell are the two biggest PC makers in the world. And while the PC market is not going anywhere (I happen to like laptops and think the future continues to be bright), there are additional facets to the mobile computing market. And laptop computing is being encroached upon.

Mobile devices like the iPhone and tablets are coming up fast. And in these two markets, HP has not made much of a splash and Dell barely dipped its toe in it. So, the question I posed is where do these two successful veterans of the PC market fit in the smartphone and tablet markets?

Right off the top, we might believe that HP has a better chance of the two in the mobile market. In acquiring Palm, HP gained the valued Web OS and has poured resources into developing new mobile devices and tablets. However, Web OS and Pre, after much fanfare, has not really lit the market on fire. And, presumably with Web OS 2, Palm through HP gets another crack at the market. And it has this only one chance left to succeed. The future is promising but uncertainly and has plenty of risks.

As for Dell, the 5" Android Streak has been quite a disappointment. Through we don't know the exact numbers, I doubt its anywhere near the ten million Galaxy S devices that Samsung has sold. And this coming from the number two PC maker in the world.

Of course, HP is forced to embrace Web OS because its Palm acquisition and Dell can choose between Android or Windows Phone 7 or both. However, as with Android, even if Dell does decide to push WP7, it continues to be without an unique OS of its own and will be relegated to being among one of the boys selling devices based on someone else's work.

But unlike HP which is figuratively hand-cuffed, Dell can choose to support any major mobile OS it wants. Given its historical close ties with Microsoft, it ought to be able to gain favors with Redmond. Similarly, Dell can support Intel's chip and mobile effort and gain a favored status with the chip giant and push MeeGo.

How will it all play out? 2011 will be a make-or-break year for HP and Dell. Both companies have a lot of talent and very deep pockets. And just as Microsoft cannot allow Apple to win the mobile war, both HP and Dell cannot allow HTC, Samsung, and others to become household names in mobile.

There is a lot at stake. So expect a lot of trashing talking, posturing, and, likely, lawsuits as well. More importantly, expected a lot of innovation. And as a mobile warrior, I can't be happier when HP and Dell takes off the gloves.

We just might learn a couple of new things at this year's CES.

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