HP Will Use Palm To Make a Killer Enterprise Infrastructure Play

Last Updated May 19, 2010 11:07 AM EDT

Before the HP (HPQ) earnings announcement yesterday, I wrote that the company acquired Palm to lure corporate mobile users more than consumers. During the conference call, HP CEO Mark Hurd indicated a far more expansive strategy that could lead the company to offer its customers a killer enterprise infrastructure offering, in which every aspect becomes intelligent. That could be appealing to HP's large corporate customers.

During the call yesterday, Hurd said that the acquisition of Palm and its webOS operating system was about far more than smartphones, and would include its use on a variety of products, including slate computers and smartphones:

Asked about the logic of the pending Palm deal, Hurd responded that "it really has more to do with the intellectual property and the fact that when you look across the HP ecosystem of interconnected devices, it is a large family of devices and we think of printers, you've now got a whole series of web connected printers and as they connect to the web, [they] need an OS."Hurd adds that HP prefers to own the OS to "control the customer experience" as it always has in printing.
That statement is a preemptive shot across the bow of virtually every major business partner that HP has. Microsoft (MSFT) and Google (GOOG) can both forget about getting significant parts of HP's business. Remember that HP has already killed a table product that was supposed to use Microsoft software. Less than a year ago, HP backed away from the interest in Chrome OS that Google had claimed.

What do you get when you own an operating system that runs on all manner of peripherals and mobile devices? A big step into an intelligent infrastructure that you or your customers can program to work in ways that would be a challenge to replicate using third party operating systems running on those same devices. From an enterprise computing view, think about any of the following:

  • built-in asset control
  • enforced user policies
  • infrastructure-wide print routing from all user devices, including mobile
  • custom applications that you can write once and run on multiple devices
  • combined purchasing deals to save money
  • one point vendor support
Such an approach to computing could be very attractive to big corporations and their IT departments. The vision also suggests that HP may have even broader ambitions. If it owns the operating system for handsets and devices, the software and hardware for networking via the 3Com acquisition, and an operating system for servers, why not come up with something for the desktop, wrap in cloud computing, and freeze everyone else, including Microsoft, out? The potential for revenue and profit growth is enormous.
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.