HP's PC, WebOS bombshells: Opportunities or warning signs for Google?

Summary:As Google and HP headed down similar business paths, HP's sudden jolt to its business model will impact the rest of the tech industry. So, what's the Google factor?

HP’s bombshell news - that it was walking away from WebOS and spinning off its PC division - is another big move that will undoubtedly have long-term ripple effects across the tech industry. What will the impact of this news be for Microsoft, specifically Windows and Office? What about Dell, HP’s long-time PC nemesis? Does this impact what other players - from RIM or Acer to Oracle or IBM - are doing in their respective businesses?

And then there’s Google.

No one was talking much about Google in the flood of posts that overtook the tech blogosphere as the news unraveled. That’s because, initially, there are others who will feel the impact of HP's news in a bigger way. HP and Google aren't largely viewed as having the same business goals and strategies.

Google, for example, isn’t a hardware company, though its bid for Motorola Mobility could change that. Google isn't the big player in the enterprise, though it clearly has such aspirations. Like pretty much everyone else, Google's tablet efforts aren't even causing Apple to so much as blink. Its push into the PC game, via Chromebooks, is still very early - no where near the level that HP's PC business was. Finally, Google was leaps and bounds ahead of HP in the mobile phone software game.

So what's the Google factor in the HP news?

When you think about where each of the companies were heading - trying to gain some ground in tablets, the mobile phone market, enterprise and cloud - there are more similarities than you might first think. Granted, the two companies weren't exactly in each other's faces today - but their roadmaps would have eventually put them into the same arenas.

Yet, now that HP has thrown a wrench into the game, will it impact Google's roadmap for the future - either by creating new opportunities or by waving red flags about possible market pitfalls?

Let's look at the PC as an example. There’s plenty of chatter about this so-called post-PC era and a shift to tablets - but I'm not ready to start reading any eulogies to the traditional personal computer just yet. Consider the growth of Macbooks in Apple's most recent quarter - a 41 percent year-over-year jump - at a time when Dell is putting less emphasis on consumer PCs and HP is bowing out completely.

Maybe this isn't a case of post-PC - but rather a turning point in the PC industry where Windows loses some major relevance points and alternative OS's step in to provide a better user experience. Apple has already proven that experience matters - and Google is betting on a cloud-only, browser-only type of experience. It's still early for Chromebooks - but maybe HP's exit from the business is more of an opportunity. After all, Chromebooks still have plenty of potential to lure in more buyers - if Google can make more refinements.

On the other hand, HP’s wasted attempt to break into the tablet game with Palm’s WebOS should be a lesson for Google.

Yes, one of the players trying to gnaw away at the non-iPad market is out of the way. But Google is going to have to up its game - and quick - if it wants to gain any traction in tablets. James Kendrick explains “Why consumers won’t buy tablets (unless they’re iPads)” and a lot of the reasoning comes down to marketing and simplicity. Apple does an amazing job on both fronts. Others - Google included - still have a few things to learn. And that makes HP's exit from the tablet game a red flag warning for Google - gaining traction against Apple in the tablet space is going to be really tough so long as Apple has raised the bar so high.

With all things considered, is this HP bombshell good news or bad news for a company like Google? Overall, I think it provides Google with more opportunities because it's early in the game for many of these 21st century business models, such as cloud computing and tablets, and that still leaves some time (and valuable lessons from others) for Google to innovate, tweak, re-innovate and re-tweak to make the experiences that much better.

That's what I think. But I'd like to know what you think? What's the Google factor here? And should the HP news be viewed as a good thing or a bad thing for Google?

Related coverage:

Topics: Hardware, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Laptops, Mobility, Operating Systems, Tablets

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