HP is a titan in the enterprise computing market. It has a full line of products for the datacenter, is the world's largest PC maker, recently bought 3Com for its leadership in networking equipment, and has a massive IT services business. Very few other firms have this collection of assets. As enterprises increasingly eye mobile platforms (including Apple's iPad) for tailored applications, these assets could become very useful. For instance, independent application developers cannot easily integrate their apps with enterprise databases, nor are they set up to create custom deployments of sophisticated apps requiring both mobile device and backend work. Think of a hospital seeking to give physicians immediate, searchable access to radiology images as they do their rounds -- this can be technically challenging.
As enterprises begin to think of ways to leverage mobile devices far beyond the apps that exist today, HP can help them imagine what is possible and implement the full solution. This can be a highly lucrative market that would entrench HP in the enterprise much like SAP is in some corporate environments today. Total device volumes may be small at first, but would grow as companies see how much these systems can do. Moreover, it is a new market that HP could own.
The challenge HP will have is weighing the "certain" numbers in the consumer smartphone business vs. the inherent fuzziness of creating a new market. New markets struggle in corporate boardrooms where management wants to grasp onto data-packed slides, vs. envision what does not yet exist. Yet Steve Jobs himself had the courage to go about creating a new market when he launched the iPhone (and the iPod, and the iPad, and the Mac, but that's another story). Creating a new market is a challenging but potentially highly rewarding decision.
This post was written by Steve Wunker.