HP acquired Palm for $1.2 billion in cash, ending recent speculation over who would purchase the struggling handheld device manufacturer. On the surface, this acquisition appears to bolster HP’s mobility strategy with Palm’s webOS mobile operating system, carrier relationships, experienced mobility personnel, and intellectual property.
However, if you look under the hood, this acquisition has a key flaw. HP currently offers iPAQ PDAs and handsets that use Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system, but these devices have had limited success among enterprise users. Will acquiring Palm put HP in a strong position against other competitive mobile operating systems vendors? Not necessarily. In Forrester’s survey of over 1,000 IT decision makers in North American and European enterprises, only 12% of firms officially support or manage Palm devices. In comparison, 70% of enterprises support BlackBerry smartphones, and 29% support Apple iPhones. Android devices, the newest entrants in the mobile OS wars, have strong momentum and are officially supported by 13% of firms.
HP did gain some important assets as part of the acquisition. Palm's carrier relationships are a plus, and HP can leverage its strong international distribution channel to expand the reach of these mobile devices on an international level. Palm’s highly skilled employees, mobile operating system R&D expertise, and intellectual property are also a benefit. In the short term, HP’s acquisition gave Palm a new lease on life, but given the intensely competitive mobile device landscape, HP’s $1.2 billion investment may not pay off in the long term.
Apple yesterday announced OS 4.0, it's latest iPhone and iPad operating system. This release confirms what we believed last year: that Apple is actually listening to what enterprise IT needs from iPhones. Let's review the history:
July 2007. Apple launches iPhone with OS 1.0 as a consumer device without anything that companies require.
July 2008. Apple releases iPhone 3G with OS 2.0 and introduces Exchange support, including remote wipe, but little else that companies need. Even so, some firms allowed their employees to bring their own iPhones and get email support.
July 2009. Apple releases iPhone 3GS with OS 3.0 and hardware encryption and enough policy-based control to give IT professionals the ability to more comfortably support the devices, particularly in non-regulated industries. The big remaining gaps in 3.0 from our 100+ conversations with IT pros? The inability to distribute applications wirelessly, to push software and policy updates to the device, and to manage iPhones or iPads in the same way that BlackBerry Enterprise Server (or Server Express, the $0-cost version) does.
July 2010. Apple will release OS 4.0 that includes wireless app distribution, better data encryption, more APIs for device management, and a significicant number of enterprise features that are outlined below. For other details, check out these Forrester posts on consumer functions and on mobile advertising.