What does that have to do with mobile and Palm? A lot more than you may realize -- HP's touch UI obsession is right for the mobile market, whether you're talking tablets or smartphones. After all, touch is the primary UI mechanism for every popular smartphone save the BlackBerry and Motorola Droid. Google Android's lack of multitouch capability is a major omission that makes its apps awkward to use compared to an iPhone -- or a Palm Pre. I'm pretty sure Windows Phone 7 will also have solid multitouch through and through, but its UI design is meant to appeal to the teen-to-20s generation, leaving space for HP to attract the over-25 business crowd that may desire the iPhone but can't get past the Apple connection -- a lot of IT organizations, for sure.
Of course, HP will have to do much more than go to town on multitouch and touch apps using WebOS as its platform. WebOS has substandard security and manageability capabilities -- significantly less than the iPhone OS, for example -- so its business fit is limited. And HP will have to figure out the relationship between its Windows 7-based Slate and any future WebOS products. It may offer both platforms, but I'm betting that Apple was right in basing the iPad on the iPhone OS and not the full Mac operating system. HP will come to the same conclusion for its tablet strategy once it digests WebOS.
By buying WebOS and the smart team that Rubinsteam assembled at Palm, HP is no longer restricted to innovating around the edges of whatever Microsoft (or Google) delivers. It could actually drive its own vision, as Apple and Microsoft are doing in their respective platforms. Now the trick is for HP to learn to drive the core, not just refine the edges.
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This article, "Can HP create its own mobile destiny with WebOS?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Gruman et al.'s Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile computing at InfoWorld.com.