I make it a point to repeat myself about HP’s position as top Pocket PC/Windows Mobile device maker, once upon a time, and that they can do it again if they put enough effort into their iPAQ line. HP has made some “just” decent Windows Mobile phones over the past several years, but nothing that was nearly as inspiring or conversation-fueling as their original iPAQ h6310 series or hw65/69xx series phones. I don’t know what happened to HP during the period they remained quiet for about 18 solid months, before releasing the underwhelming iPAQ 600/900 series phones, which only became available another several months down the road (by which time, they had become seriously outdated). Then they came out with the iPAQ Voice and Data Messenger phones, which were already ‘outdated’/paled in comparison to other QWERTY side-slider phones at launch, yet they were pricey as ever (their long names that were a mouthful didn’t help either).
But we can’t change the past; we only can put it aside and learn from mistakes. The announcement of the new Windows Phone 7 Series mobile operating system by Microsoft no more than 12 hours ago has sparked quite a lot of interest (in all senses of the word: positive, negative, speculative, etc) on the net. And I think this is the perfect chance for HP to get a fresh start. New year, new mobile OS, changed products.
Staying with Windows
I do believe that HP should stick to Windows on their iPAQ phones, instead of going the Android route of some manufacturers, or worse, come up with their own mobile OS (please, no!). Why? HP has a long-standing relationship with Microsoft, in the PC manufacturing, phone making business and other areas; even to the extent of Microsoft making limited edition HP co-branded Microsoft Arc mice (yes, I have one!) and Microsoft recently ‘sharing’ CES stage-time to introduce the new HP Slate. If there was one company that could ‘persuade’ Microsoft to support a tight-fitting Touchsmart UI/application in their new mobile OS, it would probably be HP.
As of this week, it appears that Windows Phone 7 is the new black. Plenty of people are excited and have high hopes that Microsoft will work things out with Adobe (regarding Flash), clarify the sort of multitasking their OS can/will do and further refine the wonderful interface before Windows Phone 7 phones start coming out later this year. If the iPhone with its iPhone OS could rise to insane popularity just because of ‘pretty looks’ and ‘user friendly interface’, despite lacking multitasking, plenty of business-oriented features, hardware keyboard and various restrictions imposed by Apple themselves; then imagine what sort of following/response the new Windows Phone 7 OS could generate. Everyone loved/loves the Microsoft Zune HD interface (even more than the iPhone interface), and Windows Phone 7 is just like the ‘phone’ version of that – only difference is that Microsoft is letting other manufacturers do up the hardware side.
Besides, there are already many Android phones from various brands out there – it would be unwise to step into an arena filled with ‘heavyweight’ phone makers making Android phones, complete with their own Android-skins and all. Perhaps HP still could release several Android offerings themselves, but I think their main concentration should be on making Windows phones. In today’s market (and as proven by Apple with their iPhone), it’s not how well features sell, but how well you sell your features.
The Windows Phone 7 iPAQ
Microsoft has already imposed a small set of ‘minimum hardware requirements’ for Windows Phone 7 phones to ensure a smooth-flowing, lag-free experience on the user interface part. So it’s kinda “Captain Obvious” that HP’s Windows Phone 7 iPAQ will have at least a WVGA screen with multitouch and hardware that can run Microsoft’s latest mobile OS.
I’m talking about design and aesthetics here – granted that phones nowadays have a pretty generic “big screen, 1/2 inch thin profile, few to no buttons”, there’s still a bit of room here for HP’s design team to tinger with. I kinda liked the industrial-look of HP’s original iPAQ h6310 phone (you know, the phone which had a massive 3.5 inch touchscreen looooong before the iPhone came out?!), so it’ll be great if they could make a sleeker, modernized version of that. HP should move back to using huge touchscreens (ie 3 to 3.5 inches) instead of the sub-3 inch displays they’re using on current iPAQs.
The thing I like about the original iPAQs is that they were dock-able (aww, come on HP, bring back that old dock connector of the original iPAQs!), had uniquely-placed front-facing “on/off” buttons and nice two-toned color schemes (instead of the glossy all-black iPAQs we’re seeing now). Perhaps now HP can use the same 3D Imprint/metal etched surface design features in their Envy/Mini notebooks, and backlit/flashing HP logo for phone status indication?
Release date and delivery
This is the most crucial factor that HP has to consider, besides design and specifications. The Windows Phone 7 iPAQ needs to be one of the first few (if not, the first) Windows phone to be announced and made available to the masses. In order to gain a larger marketshare (on the consumer user side, especially) for their iPAQs, an early availability date is important, because this will be the time where buyers and early adopters won’t have much choice if they were to buy a “Windows Phone 7” phone. Paired with a good experience with the (new) iPAQ, users will be spreading the word around – fast – leading to more sales. The idea here is to grab as many new users as possible at launch (seeing this is a mobile OS re-built from the ground up), giving them a good impression and experience of things, and letting them do the rest – be it spreading the word and/or become repeat buyers when the time comes for their ‘next’ Windows Phone.
There’s also more that can be done by HP to rise once again in the mobile phone arena – how about giving a special discount on the new Windows Phone 7 iPAQ with the purchase of every new HP notebook, or bundling an iPAQ (or Voodoo phone?!) with every Envy sold?! Ah, and this reminds me of the Voodoo phone. I would think the Voodoo phone will depend very much on the success of new 2010 iPAQ phones, because once they (iPAQs) become a hit, HP can expand from there and tack on a premium phone line (ie Nokia’s 8800 series).
Ready. Set. iPAQ.
Well, I wish the best of luck to HP in making the iPAQ line succeed this year and the years to come. Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 OS is really a window of opportunity of HP and I sure hope they take advantage of that fact!