“We have to offer a smartphone because in many countries of the world that is your first computing device. There will be countries around the world where people may never own a tablet, or a PC, or a desktop. They will do everything on the smartphone. We're a computing company; we have to take advantage of that form factor.”
The statement comes a year after HP pulled out of the tablet market, and marks a major new direction for the company. Whitman did not give any details of the planned device, and said that HP has not decided whether to build the phone itself or to licence or buy the technology.
But she won’t be going north to find the technology. In the interview, Whitman was asked whether HP might consider buying struggling Canadian smartphone vendor Research in Motion, maker of the Blackberry. “No, that is not a direction that we're going to head,” she said.
The new phone has been dubbed the “Bender”, and it will run the Android operating system. No release date has been announced, but given the uncertainty over the manufacturing details, it is unlikely to appear before the 2013 calendar year.
Whitman is attempting to turn around HP’s fortunes, first by cutting costs and then by setting new technology directions. She reversed the decision of previous CEO Leo Apotheker to get out of the PPC business, and has merged the PC and printer divisions. Last month HP announced a $9 billion writedown of the value of its services division, and announced plans to lay off 27,000 staff.
HP has already announced that it will supply a Windows 8 tablet (the Envy x2). Its mobile device strategy has consistently failed – it acquired Palm in 2010 and built devices based on its PalmOS operating system, but these were spectacularly unsuccessful. Its 2011 TouchPad also failed.
“We have to get it right this time,” Whitman said, in what can only be interpreted as a massive understatement. If HP fails this time round, it will be a disaster.