HP Aims to “Reinvent” Mobile

HP recently announced its new Elite X3 convertible smartphone that can become a notebook or a desktop through use of smart adapters and wireless technology. Running Windows 10, it’s targeted at enterprise users who want portability but are not able to get all their work done on a smartphone form factor. It sports some impressive technology, including the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB of memory, a huge 4150 maH battery, a Gorilla Glass 4 9.6” edge-to-edge high res display, full Cat 6 LTE modem, dual SIM capability, and Mil Std 8 durability. To compliment and extend the core device, HP has created a desk solution that allows the phone to rest in a dock and provide connectivity via Display Port and Ethernet to a full size display and keyboard as well as corporate networks. HP also created a mobile extender (called ME-Dock) that essentially coverts the device into a 12.5″ laptop.

HP is going for the Swiss Army Knife approach with this device. It believes users would prefer a single device that can be configured “on the fly” to the user’s needs and circumstances. Such handheld convertible approaches have been tried before (all the way back to Palm days) with limited success. HP is betting this time is different, driven by the adoption and standardization on Windows 10. But there are a few challenges to this strategy.

First, Windows 10 is not all that good at legacy apps. To fix this, HP includes a VDI environment it OEM’s from Citrix, which it calls HP Workspace. This is more than just Microsoft Continuum, as it is a full VDI solution that can run any Windows app loaded on the virtual server. However, and this is a major issue, it only works in an on-line scenario. If users want to interact with a legacy app, say on an airplane with no WiFi, they cannot. This may be the kiss of death for some users wanting to work with legacy corporate apps, as they can’t be natively loaded on the device (Windows 10 running on a Qualcomm chip only supports the newer Windows 10 native universal app environment).

Second, HP has not announced pricing for any of this yet. Given the high performance features of the device, it appears it will be fairly expensive. And given that a user would have to buy multiple components to make it into both a smartphone and a desktop/notebook replacement, it may be cost prohibitive. HP is betting it will still cost less than buying a feature rich smartphone and a business class 2-in-1 or Ultrabook class machine.

Third, the size of the device puts it squarely into the upper end of the phablet range, not as a replacement for the popular smartphones in the 5-6 inch range. While phablet class devices are picking up in popularity, especially with business users who can utilize the bigger screen, the majority of users still purchase a smaller, more “svelte” device. Can a device, sized in the range of smaller tablets, be competitive as a smartphone communications device with users?

Fourth, many users of smartphone devices rely on a growing list of apps available from the various app stores. Running Windows 10 means this device will have access to far fewer apps, both for business and personal use. This has been a shortcoming of Windows phones for some time and it is likely many potential users would not find this an acceptable substitute for their iOS or Android-powered devices. Even if this is primarily targeted at enterprise users, the availability of personal apps is still a driving factor for device selections (hence the whole BYOD movement).

Finally, to take full advantage of the benefits of Windows 10 requires new apps be compliant across all form factors. However few companies have redesigned their apps for this new universal app requirement. Given the history of business apps, it will take many years before the majority of such enterprise apps are available, hence the need for HP Workspace. But will companies want to deploy yet another infrastructure product, even if it is relatively easy to do?

HP is taking a gamble on an approach that might have appeal to the growing number of users who are burdened with having to use several devices to get their jobs done. Clearly, this is not a device for the mass consumer market. But the price and performance of this product will have a major impact on acceptance.

Bottom line: It is encouraging that HP is trying to regain its reputation for innovation of years past. But this tablet sized device may just be too big for a majority of users replacing their smartphones. Further, the need for convenience apps so prevalent in the Android and iOS ecosystem will be a limiting factor for many mobile users. Clearly this is innovative and a major addition to HP’s product line. But acceptance (and success) is not assured.

Published by

Jack Gold

Jack E. Gold is Founder and President at J.Gold Associates, LLC, a technology industry analyst firm. Mr. Gold has over 40 years in the computer and electronics industries, including work in imaging, multimedia, technical computing, consumer electronics, software development and manufacturing systems. He is a leading authority on mobile, wireless and pervasive computing, advising clients on business analysis, strategic marketing and planning, architecture, product evaluation/selection and enterprise application strategies. Mr. Gold is widely quoted in the press, and has presented at numerous conferences and industry events. Before founding J. Gold Associates, he spent 12 years with META Group as a Vice President in Technology Research Services. He also held positions in technical and marketing management at Digital Equipment Corp. and Xerox. Mr. Gold has a BS in Electrical Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology and an MBA from Clark University. His thoughts and opinions are his own.

54 thoughts on “HP Aims to “Reinvent” Mobile”

  1. By now, everyone has learned not to use the ugly and dumb word PHABLET. Well, almost everyone. One or two people still haven’t gotten the memo.

    1. Who cares ? It does signify “large smartphone” but is shorter; it’s not uglier than “iPad” or “Galaxy S6 Edge Plus”.

      It is a bit ugly, but so what ? It’s clear and functional. As is my own phablet, which I find phabulous.

  2. I think MS strategy is mid/long term and entreprise-focused. And not sure-fire:

    1- WinPhone10 has no value until there are Universal apps, both mobile-era (whatever is successful on iOS/Android: Clash of Clans, Tinder, Instagram…) and updated legacy apps (Office, SAP, …). Side benefit, Windows Desktop would also get native Mobile-era apps, instead of the current rather dreadful WebApps. Right now even MS’s basic apps are lagging in their Universal implementation (Office lacks features, Mail is… very basic, etc…)

    2- If that ever happens (a big if), I think companies would rather pay over the odds for accessories to turn a phone into a laptop and desktop than have a 2x-3x as many devices to manage. Citrix dumb terminals are kind of successful, despite being priced the same as low-end PCs while being vastly less powerful and versatile, because they save so much on the admin side.

    3- VDI is a necessary kludge for apps that can’t be ported to UWP or Web. Many of those in the dark corners of Corp platforms. Citrix et al are also available on Android and iOS, so it’s not really an argument for Win10, even MS’s RDP & RemoteFX are on iOS and Android. That’s a rather irrelevant side show and won’t impact win10 success/failure.

    I’d be very surprised if WinPhone becomes successful this year or next. Beyond that, if MS hang on and succeed in transitioning their own apps + their partners’ to Universal, interesting things might happen ?

  3. “First, Windows 10 is not all that good at legacy apps.”

    Somewhat of an understatement for ARM based devices. Windows 10 on ARM does not do legacy apps at all would be more accurate. This hinders this device quite severely. I really don’t understand why they didn’t make it a Intel based system. Then the Continuum features would work with older applications as well.

    1. x86 doesn’t matter much because WinPhone needs new, Mobile apps anyway.

      Nobody’s going to buy a smartphone that can’t be a smartphone even if it can be a PC. “You can plug your $600 phone into a monitor/keyboard/mouse or $100 lapdock and turn it into a $100 PC or $200 Netbook, but you can’t really use it as a smartphone” isn’t much of a value proposition: I’ll get a $350 midrange Android (actually, last year’s flagship) + a $200 laptop + a $100 desktop, and have a lot more CPU power, active screens, and versatility, and still save $50 (plus the cost of the real smartphone I’ll need alongside my useless Lumia^^)

      And the only chance WinPhone has to succeed as a Mobile platform is Universal apps motivated by sales into MS’s desktop market. Apps devs should be interested in selling to the (eventual) billion Win10 desktops; they’d never lift a finger for Winphone’s 1% share.

      1. Maybe I’m making a bad assumption that Microsoft is going to release a version of Windows 10 for phones that does Continuum with x86 legacy applications. There is a big push for Microsoft to release a Surface phone.

        The lack of Windows 10 UWP apps for ARM is likely to make the Continuum features of this phone irrelevant.

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