Is HP Preparing to Take on iPhone?

Is Hewlett-Packard gearing up for a smartphone battle? Reports, including one from InternetNews.com, say the channel vendor is about to launch its first consumer smartphone. HP isn't commenting, but at least one analyst says he is being briefed about the device this week.

With the line between smartphones and computers blurring, and given HP's expertise in all types of consumer electronics, it makes sense for HP to play in the booming consumer smartphone market. The vendor already have released its own iPaq phone, but it is expensive, larger than sleek consumer products like the iPhone and leads popular functionality such as Web browsing. It's primarily a solution for the enterprise market. The expectation is that HP will release a flashier product with a lot more features that consumers will embrace.

Given its channel commitment, HP might giving channel partners a shot at reselling any such device. (Apple recently broadened iPhone distribution from service provider AT&T to retailer Best Buy, but it certainly isn't a mainstream channel play.) The channel is skilled at packaging such devices into larger solution bundles. (We're seeing this happen with other consumer electronics such as GPS devices.) So it isn't only the technology that will be important to HP -- it's the distribution strategy as well.

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