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Michael Haley, president of Edge Solutions, an HP partner in Alpharetta, Ga., says the Palm deal gave HP a degree of fiscal independence it hasn't enjoyed during the course of its Microsoft partnership.
"When you look at the Windows licensing fees HP would be paying for each tablet, the $1.2 billion looks like a bargain," he said. "Palm was a great acquisition because it makes HP relevant in an area where it really needs to be relevant."
Bob Venero, president and CEO of Future Tech, a Holbrook, N.Y. solution provider, also likes the new mobile direction that HP-Palm represents. "Microsoft's tablet efforts have been kludgy and stop-and-start. I think it's crazy for an OEM like HP to be part of that when they could control the platform themselves," he said.
HP's future tablet plans may still include Windows, but there's recent evidence of strategic shifts on the part of both companies that could generate additional friction with Microsoft.
Andrew Brust, CEO of Microsoft analyst firm Blue Badge Insights, based in New York City, points to HP's aggressive cloud computing strategy, its claim that WebOS will be installed side-by-side with Windows on HP PCs and its decision in December to drop out of the Windows Home Server 'Vail' ecosystem as examples of how the longtime partners' strategies are diverging.
"HP has made several moves and announcements recently that, at the very least, have to make Microsoft feel alienated," said Brust.
Whether this alienation will affect the HP-Microsoft partnership long term is anyone's guess, although it's unlikely. And if Microsoft's next version of Windows works well with tablets, HP could reassess its stance.
Swank is holding out hope for this scenario, as he believes customers that have made major investments in Microsoft software would still prefer to run Windows tablets in their environments over Android and Apple devices.
"It seems that CIOs are still on Microsoft's side, but employees are coming in with fancy new mobile devices and they're winning," said Swank. "I’m sure that story will change pretty quickly when HP has the ability to release a tablet PC based on the next version of Windows."
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for Microsoft, and each second that ticks by without a tablet friendly Windows is a chance for an iPad, Android or WebOS tablet to gain a foothold in an enterprise IT environment.