Hewlett-Packard is planning to begin selling a series of 6-inch and 7-inch smartphones in Asia before the end of the year, technology blog The Information (subscription required) reported Monday.
HP will sell the smartphones, also known as "phablets," in China, India, the Philippines and other emerging markets, according to The Information, which also said they'll cost between $200 and $250 without a contract.
An HP spokesperson declined to comment on the report, citing the company's policy of not responding to rumors or speculation.
But HP executives, whose WebOS Veer and Pre 3 smartphones fizzled in their 2011 debut, haven't been bashful about their desire to get back into the smartphone market.
"My view is, we have to ultimately offer a smartphone because in many countries of the world, that is your first computing device," HP CEO Meg Whitman said last September in an interview with Fox Business Network.
Given their low price, HP's rumored smartphones are probably Android devices. HP in February released its first Android tablet, the Slate 7, and it's working closely with Google as part of a small business focused partnership unveiled in July.
Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst for Moor Insights and Strategy, says HP needs to adapt to the changing PC market by evolving its portfolio to include a wider range of devices.
"To be a future end user computing player, HP must find a way to reenter the smartphone market," Moorhead said in an email. "It is important that HP brings differentiation beyond their brand, or they will not be successful."
The big question is whether HP will at some point try to compete for smartphone share in the U.S. One HP partner and carrier reseller told CRN he can’t see this happening anytime soon.
"The money in smartphones isn't as easy as it once was. Margins are lower and inventory costs are high because we have to stock a lot of different styles. Just understanding the different plans is tough," said the source, who requested anonymity to protect his vendor relationships.