Hewlett-Packard, the world's largest IT company, and Nokia, the biggest phone manufacturer, are both expected to make game-changing announcements next week. HP will be first, with the announcement of its new WebOS-based tablets (and, perhaps, phones) on Wednesday February 9. The Nokia announcement is more speculative, because all we really know is that new boss Stephen Elop will be giving a speech to investors in London on Friday February 11. However, he is expected to talk about future plans, and as The New York Times has pointed out: Speculation of Alliance With Microsoft Lifts Nokia Shares.
The speculation has been prompted, or orchestrated, by an open letter (PDF) to Stephen (Nokia) and Steve (Microsoft) Ballmer written by Adnaan Ahmad of Berenberg Bank and posted in the Financial Times.
Elop, a Canadian who used to work for Microsoft, could do a deal to sell Windows Phone 7 on some Nokia phones. This could help both parties, especially through the phone's integration with Microsoft Exchange, Office and SharePoint. I wrote about this last year in Nokia could join the Windows Phone 7 party, and I do think it's possible, though it won't mean Nokia drops Symbian or perhaps even (as Adnaan Ahmad advises) MeeGo.
It also won't mean Windows Phone 7 gets an instant boost in the marketplace. Microsoft has rules for hardware buttons that Nokia will have to meet, so it's not simply a matter of changing the ROM in a Nokia N8, or whatever.
We're on much firmer ground with HP's announcement, which is rumoured to include two PalmPad tablets code-named Opal (7-inch screen) and Topaz (10-inch), as leaked to Engadget last month. These will run WebOS 2.0 or later, from HP's $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm, and are expected to include wireless charging like the Palm Pre’s Touchstone dock. They should also include HP's Beats (aka Dr Dre) audio. Unlike Apple's current products, they will do real multitasking and support Adobe Flash, which will make them more competitive with RIM's PlayBook.
WebOS must be a pretty scary for prospect for Microsoft. It's at risk of losing software sales on tablets, mobile phones and possibly other devices. This is not something Steve Ballmer will want to see from his biggest customer.