Saturday, May 01, 2010

HP Buys Palm for the slate market runing JS Apps

Company acquisitions are viewed as potential for the new company. "By acquiring this product the new company can expand into this market of the old company." More often, the acquiring company places value in old company as a defensive move. They don't want to be outflanked in the changing market place.

The world of mobile devices has changed dramatically in the past 12 months, but people for the most part are just getting use to what it was like 12 months ago. Example, everyone thinks App Stores are it.

First big change: App Stores are old school. Native apps are old school. The great new apps will be not be native apps written in Java or Objective-Whatever. They will be HTML5, CSS and JavaScript apps, hereafter called JS Apps. Proof is the NPR app written for iPad using SproutCore as shown at JSConf. The world has changed.

Second, big change: all major phone platforms can run these JS Apps. Blackberry is just getting caught up with the rest of the market on this. So I can now write an JS App and have it run on all phones: iPhone, Android, Palm and Blackberry. Phones are a commodity for the replacement cycle, though consumers don't know that yet.

Third big change: iPad introduced a new form factor. In part, a larger screen and touch area. This is a big deal, maybe. Market may or may not be huge. May or may not kill the laptop. It is a big deal just because it introduces uncertainty into the laptop market.

Now what is HP to do? The laptop market is being nibbled away by mobile phones or maybe being killed. Things that you only use to be able to do on the road with a laptop can now be done on your phone. You still have customers (and a brand) that depend on your products and you have a product gap that maybe huge. You acquire to fill that gap.

But wait, do your customers realize that products are changing (see above)? Not yet. But you'll be ready for them. Immediately, HP can tell customers we sell phones too. Buying number four in the market never works (see GE and Jack Welch). What was HP thinking?

Go back to third big change: new form factor. The large screens are a field HP knows well - take the keyboard off that laptop and you have a slate. How do you enter this new market? How do you become a leader? Do you take the Microsoft operating system, whatever the name is, and compete with Apple that way? Are you crazy? Too late, too old school. Microsoft has not gotten this right in 20 years. Microsoft is no help this time.

What HP does is work with the trend that mobile devices are becoming a commodity. HP knows that business. They build a slate that runs the JS Apps that also run on the iPhone, the iPad. It also runs the JS Apps written for Android and the Blackberry. Palm has an excellent development platform and team for JS Apps.

So HP buys Palm. They slap the Palm (Pilot) name on the new slate that runs these JS Apps. They are instantly number two in the new market where the App Store advantage is losing marketing power.

And besides, Palm is a better name than tongue twister iPad (or was that iPod). And look at what an old brand name (AT&T) did for Cingular. Brand names are important.

HP bought Palm not because of the phone market, but to hedge their bets in the maybe emerging market of the Palm slate. I can not wait to buy one.

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