The Palo Alto tech giant, the world's No. 1 personal computer maker, has struggled to break into the mobile-device market that has made Apple (AAPL) the most valuable company in the United States. HP attempted to jump into the field with its $1.2 billion purchase of Sunnyvale-based Palm in 2010, offering smartphones and eventually a tablet based on the webOS platform developed by Palm. The devices did not catch on with consumers, however: HP announced less than two months after the TouchPad tablet launched in July 2011 that it would cease production of hardware based on webOS, which it decided to offer as an open-source operating system.
Instead of making another attempt to enter the consumer mobile-device market, HP CEO Meg Whitman is instead targeting businesses with the HP ElitePad 900, hoping that the Windows 8-based tablet will appeal to companies that want to have more IT control over the mobile devices employees carry.
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Whitman has given hints that the company would be jumping back into the market for mobile devices, saying in an August conference call with investors, analysts and journalists that HP was working on a new tablet offering, and telling the Fox Business Channel in a September interview that the company has also been working on a smartphone.
After the later interview, Moor Insights and Strategy principal analyst Patrick Moorhead predicted that HP would aim for the enterprise with any new mobile offerings, explaining that the bring-your-own-device trend will peter out a bit as workers attempt to perform more advanced functions than just accessing email.
"Email is one thing, but gaining access to confidential corporate data and true enterprise applications and being able to lock down and encrypt the data ... will become much more important," Moorhead said in an interview with the Mercury News last month.
The 10.1-inch tablet is powered by an Intel (INTC) mobile processor, part of the Santa Clara chipmaker's efforts to also push into the mobile market, and will run Microsoft's newest operating system, which has been developed with a focus on marrying the company's desktop operating system with mobile offerings. It is expected to launch in the U.S. in January 2013; pricing was not announced.
HP has focused on its enterprise offerings as the consumer PC and printer market has dwindled. In the meantime, Whitman has worked to trim down the company, with the biggest round of employee layoffs and buyouts in its history. HP announced last month that an additional 2,000 workers will be leaving the company, increasing the cutbacks to 29,000 through Oct. 31, 2014.
Hewlett-Packard stock moved higher Monday morning after the announcement, gaining as much as 3.3 percent higher by 9:30 a.m. Pacific time, when shares were trading for $17.41, a 2.1 percent gain from Friday's closing price. HP stock fell to an 8-year low in late August, hitting a low point of $16.77 on Aug. 30.
Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.