Android Could be Vulnerable if HP Licenses WebOS

by Ben Bajarin   |   July 6th, 2011

I’ve been pondering the question of Android’s growth, sustainabilty and market share for some time now. For several years now as we have been discussing strategy and market trends with our clients, Android always seems to enter the discussion in some way.

Many of the companies we consult with work closely with Google and implement Android on a number of their hardware platforms. Suffice it to say that being tuned into the intimate discussions between Google and their Android customers is VERY interesting. The bottom line is we know for a fact vendors are extremely interested in supporting multiple platforms and many of them do not want to bet their future on Android.

This reality is actually what led Intel to want to create and develop MeeGo. Intel heard the same complaints from hardware vendors who deeply desired an alternate to Android but had no viable option in the market place.

Android’s momentum, particularly with develepers, is the strongest reason for vendors to continue selling Android devices. Contrary to popular belief, mainstream consumers are not walking into stores asking for Android devices. Instead they are shopping for a smart phone and are seeking the best option to fit their life based on a few set criteria in their buying process.

Using this knowledge the question of HP licensing WebOS becomes quite an interesting one. If vendors are genuinely interested in supporting and developing out more platforms than just Google, then HP has a huge opportunity in front of them.

As I pointed out in my TouchPad review WebOS is solid, stable and elegant. All that is missing from making the OS great is a plethora of the key and important core applications. HP is going to continue to drive software development and they are buidling their develeper relations team out as we speak.

Review:
WebOS TouchPad Review: 3 Things that Set it Apart
Commentary:
HP is Committed to WebOS (and they should be)

If HP was to pull in one or two major vendors like HTC, Samsung or Motorola, my guess is developers would come in droves. This would mean the app shortage currently facing WebOS could turn very quickly. Especially given how easy it is to develop for WebOS.

I’ve stated this in a number of articles where I was quoted but I believe that if HP was to have success licensing WebOS it would hurt Android and Microsoft more than Apple.

Android is vulnerable because it is not a sticky solution. Most of Google’s apps are free, their services are free and accessible on other operating systems as well. Consumers who buy Android devices don’t have much other than the cost of the hardware sunk into the ecosystem. Google is a services company and they want their services on as many devices as possible, including non-Android devices. So even if as a consumer you are vested in Google’s services, you will be able to access these services(like Gmail) from any number of non-Android devices as well. For these reasons Android is not sticky.

Article:
Are Mobile Platforms Sticky

Microsoft has a better chance at creating a sticky platform but vendors like HP, Samsung and Moto simply won’t support Android, WebOS and Windows Phone. If HP can swing major commitments from any of those players my guess is Microsoft’s chances of getting more hardware wins for Windows Phone becomes a challenge.

I know i’m going way out on a limb with this statement however I would not be shocked if in three years Android was not in the top three of mobile OS market share. Entirely assuming HP does license WebOS(and they do it right) AND Microsoft delivers with Windows Phone 8 and beyond.

Those may be big assumptions but as I said the lack of stickiness with Android may be its Achilles heel.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research. He is a husband, father, gadget enthusiast, trend spotter, early adopter and hobby farmer. Full Bio