HP is set to become the latest tech giant vying to steal the iPhone’s thunder, with plans to soon launch its first-ever, consumer-focused smartphone, InternetNews.com has learned.
Details on the device, which is expected to ship before the end of the year, remain sketchy, however.
Outlets such as the The Wall Street Journal have reported that HP built a new version of its iPAQ product lineup that features a touchscreen, and is based on the Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system.
In September, HP (NYSE: HPQ) debuted its first smartphone, a $499, unlocked, 3G HP iPAQ 912 Series Business Messenger. Earlier iPAQ models had included wireless connectivity, but featured a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) form factor and lacked features typical to today’s mainstream smartphones — such as Web browsing.
While HP told InternetNews.com that it does not comment on unannounced products, one industry analyst confirmed he is being briefed on the smartphone next week.
Several others told InternetNews.com that the product move isn’t unexpected, given HP’s experience with PDAs — which to date have mostly been aimed at business users — and its overall brand strength.
Yet HP’s success in the smartphone space may be tied to overcoming some big challenges. The most critical is the news last week that Microsoft is delaying its anticipated mobile OS update, Microsoft Windows Mobile 7. The hurdle could put HP in the same market predicament as Palm, which has suffered due to delays in developing its new propriety platform.
Mobile operating systems have emerged as key elements in bringing the advanced features and functionalities users now expect and demand from smartphone makers.
New arrivals such as the T-Mobile HTC G1, built on the Google-backed Android platform, and the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone, have also set new feature expectations that other handset makers will now forced to follow, said one expert.
“It would not surprise me if HP offered an ‘iPhone/Android’ wannabe with a touchscreen and media player,” Jack Gold, analyst, J.Gold Associates, told InternetNews.com.
Noting that HP has focused on the enterprise market area in the past, Gold said it would not be a big stretch for the vendor to make a smooth consumer move.
“However, I don’t see them being terribly successful in the US with a consumer phone if they decided to go that route,” Gold said. “There is just too much competition both for the consumer and for the carrier, which is the primary channel for phone distribution here.”