Yesterday, Leo Apotheker, Chairman and CEO of HP, effectively pulled the iplug on WebOS and the former Palm handheld computing platform. Just one year ago, HP paid $1.2B to acquire Palm and the WebOS as a means to make HP relevant in the mobile/tablet computing space.
Simultaneously, HP decided to exit the PC business, signaling it is ready to spin the PC business out or sell it as a separate entity to become less reliant on “commodity” hardware products. This is a move that is reminiscent of IBM exiting the PC business when it spun off its PC business to create what we now know as Lenovo.
This is a sad ending for Palm, once the pre-eminent maker of hand-held computing platforms dating all the way back to the Palm Pilot. This substantiates a statement I made at the recent ExL Digital Marketing for Medical Devices conference when I recapped history by saying “…being first, or the biggest at any point in time is no guarantee of future success.”
So, the mobile computing field is narrowing with just four platforms left standing: Google/Android, Apple/iOS, RIM/Qnx, and Microsoft/Nokia. I predict that RIM will be forced into the arms of a larger player in an attempt to regain its relevance and that Microsoft will solidify its ownership of Nokia through outright acquisition. By mid-2012, the field will narrow to three players and then the market share wars will ensue with intense competition. In the near to mid-term, the consumer will benefit.
Another prediction is that we will begin to see less and less difference between the user interface experiences between the platforms – we’ve seen this movie before in the PC world. Ultimately, this battle will be waged on economics – the economics of total cost of ownership for device, carrier plan, and application sets that are bundled with and available on the devices.
This market is maturing faster than anyone predicted; it will spark a major evolution of application development in both the consumer and enterprise spaces. Bring it on.