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A 7-Step Plan For HP To Succeed in Mobile

In a baffling move, HP spent $1.2 billion on Palm, the twice-revived also-ran in the race for mobile supremacy. The company must now execute flawlessly and with old-school HP innovation to succeed. Here’s what it must do.
5) Innovate like an engineering company. That's what HP is, right? At Mobile Beat this year, HP CTO Phil McKinney brought along flexible display technology that HP can mass produce at a variety of sizes. The implication: tablets that can be folded to fit in your pocket, or to be held up to your ear; or folded out to become a large display for a presentation, all in an extremely lightweight form factor. Now THAT would be different. McKinney said HP has diverted R&D money into Palm (company spokespeople wouldn’t provide any more detail), which is a good sign because HP needs to flex its engineering muscles, and fast.

6) Fit the HP strategy. In other columns here, we've admitted to struggling to figure out HP's real strategy, and we offered some suggestions. But whatever it is, its mobile strategy needs to somehow align. Because WebOS and Palm are so far behind in this race, there must be a compelling reason for buyers to consider the company's mobile platform beyond simple quality or marketing or innovation. Cisco has smartly demonstrated how its Cius tablet will become not just an iPad competitor, but fit into Cisco's vision of unified communication, presence, and collaboration in the enterprise. I've wracked my brain trying to figure out an angle for HP here and I simply can't, and that's part of the problem.

7) Get developers on board. Palm says it has roughly 3,000 apps in its marketplace. The fact is, despite the message that WebOS simply requires Web development (using JavaScript, AJAX, or even HTML) developers aren't flocking to Palm. The company is facing a chicken-and-egg challenge here, but this is war; time to win the hearts and minds. The dirty little secret is that writing really good WebOS apps isn't as easy as pounding out some AJAX code. One major app company (whose app is on every platform, including WebOS) said that its best developers (expert in Objective C, Java, and so on) had major trouble with WebOS. In fact, Palm had to essentially finish the code just to get the app to work. HP may find itself doing more of that sort of work, or paying some of the big players to port their software to the platform.

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Fritz Nelson is the editorial director for InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.

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