HP’s Mobile Revival May Include Android

HP is reportedly working on a series of Android devices, the first of which could be a high-end tablet powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 4 processor. The move is a sensitive one for HP, which tried to crack the mobile market in 2010 by purchasing Palm for US$1.2 billion, but saw that investment go down the drain.

“I don’t see an obstacle for HP entering this market,” Rhoda Alexander, a director of research at IHS iSuppli, told LinuxInsider. “They have the financial resources, the distribution, a strong core of business customers, and a history in the consumer department.”

Offering an Android tablet makes sense, but HP would be better off competing at the low end of the market, said Julien Blin, a directing analyst at Infonetics.

“If HP launched a highly differentiated quad-core Tegra 4 tablet for $199, they’d have a chance,” Blin told LinuxInsider. “If not, good luck.”

About the Rumored HP Android Tablet

HP is expected to announce its Android tablet soon. The company reportedly has been working on the device since before Thanksgiving.

HP is no stranger to Android, having recently released its own Chromebook. It plans to hold private meetings at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later this month, according to reports, and may schedule showings of the Android tablet there.

HP spokesperson Sheila Watson declined to comment for this story.

Covering OS Bases

An Android tablet might help revive HP’s flagging fortunes. The company already offers a Windows 8 tablet in addition to the Chromebook. It has also sold ruggedized Windows tablets with styluses for use in the warehousing and distribution sectors.

It is now par for the course for computer makers to offer devices running different operating systems. “When you look at major PC OEMs such as Lenovo and Acer, they offer Windows-based products, Chromebooks and Android tablets,” Alexander pointed out. “As PC vendors face more and more competition, they’re trying out everything. Some systems will be better for one environment than others.”

The Android market “still has a lot of room for people to enter, and to play in the ecosystem that’s being built up around it,” she continued.

The biggest challenge for players in the Android space is that “you have a couple of core players at the heart of this that control the OS and the ecosystem, so the problem is, how do you create the content,” Alexander said.

Screen Size and App Support Matter

It makes sense for HP to focus on Android “because Android has a much more mature app ecosystem than webOS or Windows Mobile at the moment,” Blin said.

Mini tablets are also gaining significant traction, Blin added, based on his recent trips to Asia and the International CES.

“Apple has had trouble competing with the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD, which is why I think they introduced the mini-iPad,” he said, “so HP can jump on the Android mini tablet and take advantage of this trend.”

Catching Up With the Big Boys

Samsung is the current king of the Android mobile device hill, with other players, such as Lenovo, ASUS and Acer, trailing far behind.

New products are being offered all the time: Archos just announced a series of tablets in its Platinum line that have high-definition displays and quad-core processors.

That raises the question of whether HP can be competitive in this market or will suffer another black eye as it did following its purchase of Palm and its webOS.

“HP can leverage all their hardware ecosystem — printers, laptops, PCs — and put the tablet at the core to create a seamless experience across all these devices and try to create a lock-in,” Blin contended. “They can also leverage their strong presence in the enterprise.”

The company would have to differentiate its software on top of Android, he added. HP also would need to offer competitive pricing, take advantage of its distribution network at retail outlets like Best Buy, and design best-in-class ad campaigns.

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