Hewlett-Packard just raised the ante in the smartphone wars by purchasing Palm, bringing to the table its standing as the world's largest PC maker and potentially bringing on a new era of WebOS devices. The future is still cloudy for the union of the ailing Palm and the mighty HP, but here are five ways HP can make the best of its $1.2 billion buy:
Keep WebOS, Ditch the Pre and Pixi
The language of HP's press release clearly shows enthusiasm for WebOS, but not so much for the hardware that currently contains it, Palm's Pre and Pixi smartphones. Indeed, HP and Palm should go back to the drawing board with hardware to fix issues like battery life and build quality while adding new features like front-facing cameras and bigger, prettier touch screens.
Hype up the next "iPhone Killer"
Why the scare quotes? Because the tech press popularized the term "iPhone Killer" in the Palm Pre's pre-release buzz, and promptly buried it when the phone didn't live up to the billing. Inevitably, HP and Palm will try again, hopefully with better hardware and, most importantly better marketing, which, as evidenced by the Motorola Droid, is crucial to winning mindshare in the insular tech world.
Ditch slate, go WebOS tablet
The HP Slate is a good idea that may be held back by its inherent netbookness. Unofficial reports on the Slate paint a picture of long start-up times, short battery life, and a chunky exterior -- all critical flaws if true. The Slate is intriguing because it's the answer to Apple's iPad with dual cameras, USB ports, Flash support, and a more open attitude towards software, not because it's based on Windows and Intel Atom. A WebOS tablet with an ARM processor could be the winning ticket.
Don't kill the Chrome
Last summer, Google listed HP as one of several manufacturers to develop products running Chrome OS, Google's Web-centric operating system. I've still got high hopes for Chrome OS, and would love to see HP release a Chrome OS netbook. WebOS shouldn't be the only tool in HP's shed.
Don't Fear What You've Created
Apple's iPad showed us how a mobile operating system can scale upwards and play a bigger role in personal computing. Down the line, it's possible that mobile, app-based operating systems could cannibalize full-blown laptops and desktops, which happen to be HP's core business. My concern is that HP would deprive WebOS-based devices of the best hardware in order to draw a clear line between them and computers. That didn't stop netbooks from becoming wildly popular, and it won't stop the rise of mobile, touch-based computing either.