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Stephen DeWitt, the recently appointed head of HPs' new WebOS business unit, has heard all about how Apple has an insurmountable lead in the tablet space, and how HP will never be able to attract widespread interest from mobile application developers. And in some cases, DeWitt understands why critics would reach such conclusions.
"I know it's trendy for people to say WebOS doesn't have all the apps. We don't have an umpteen-year history of courting the developer community -- we just don’t," DeWitt told CRN in a recent interview.
But in spite of the doomsayers, DeWitt continues to make the case that WebOS and the TouchPad tablet are products that are tailor-made for HP's channel partners -- and for developers. DeWitt notes that HP's WebOS App Catalog currently has around 500 native TouchPad applications, more than the iPad had at launch. And when HP gets WebOS running on Windows PCs, home appliances, printers and a range of other devices, the developer opportunity will really explode, according to DeWitt.
"No one has ever had a playground of hundreds of millions of disparate devices to build applications on top. It's one thing to have a smartphone, but what about applications that run on all sorts of different things that create experiences that we haven't even envisioned yet?" DeWitt said. "What's most important for HP is to inspire the innovation we know is possible across the universe of devices that we can impact."
It's a lofty vision, and one that will take years to develop, particularly since HP executives have characterized the company's mobile strategy as more like a marathon than a sprint. HP CEO Leo Apotheker has raised the possibility of licensing WebOS to third parties, including mobile device makers, which would expand the target for developers and allow DeWitt's vision to take shape more quickly.
At the moment, though, HP partners are just starting to dip their toes into the WebOS waters, and DeWitt says HP is willing to be patient while partners figure out where mobility fits into their businesses.
"The VAR community has a massive opportunity in front of it, but the value proposition has to be matched to it, and that evolution has to take place," DeWitt said. "This isn’t a binary on off switch, or a situation where if partners don't do it right away, they'll be dead."
However, some partner opportunities around TouchPad are within the reach of the HP channel today. This is particularly true of virtualization solution providers, which are deploying tablets as endpoints in virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) projects.
Next: HP VARs Making Money With TouchPad Today