Exit WebOS – and then there were 3½ (or will it be 2½?) smart-phone/tablet platforms
HP’s announcement yesterday (August 18th) that it was shuttering its tablet and smart-phone business – and, with these, WebOS – was not that much of a surprise. None had taken off in the way that HP had hoped, and the only real prospect (though potentially a good one given both Apple’s and Google’s feebleness when handling corporate mobile device management) was enterprise customers. Clearly HP failed to make the sale there – and WebOS and the associated hardware pays the price. Looked at from a customer perspective, the loss of WebOS as a smart-phone/tablet platform is probably an unexpected bonus. There are fewer choices to make. The bigger question now is about the future of RIM’s QNX. While QNX is a weightier and more sophisticated OS, its success (unless something incredible happens and one or more significant third parties sign up) is almost totally tied up with RIM’s tablet, the Blackberry PlayBook. Thus far PlayBooks are not noticeably more successful than HP’s TouchPad – especially when compared to tens of millions of sales Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android smart-phone/tablet platforms. Unless RIM manages to pull a very large cat out of a highly competitive smart-phone/tablet bag soon, expect the PlayBook to remain little more than a bit-player on the smart-phone/tablet fringes – even though RIM does have credibility with a large corporate customer base to exploit. If you accept this, the ‘big guys’ – iOS and Android – remain to rule the roost. This is a reasonable degree of choice for enterprises (competitive but not too difficult to choose between, although both are still mobile device management challenged). And then there is that ‘½’. But what a ‘½’. Microsoft has the possibility with a ‘Windows 8’ designed as a smart-phone/tablet platform (as well as a PC platform) to deliver what HP did not, what Google and Apple appear unable to do and what RIM can do but without sufficiently attractive product (thus far) to make an impression. As of August 18th, the smart-phone/tablet market is even more an opportunity for Microsoft to lose. One other thought: HP maybe closing its interest in smart-phones/tablets. It had invested much, buying and developing and packaging. That means there is a great deal of experience and wisdom available in both software and hardware (especially in what not to do) for the taking. Apple won’t buy – it knows better. Might Google act? Might Microsoft seize a software opportunity and its partner Nokia the hardware one? These are interesting times, but almost certainly clearer ones for Constellation’s mobile enterprise clients.