New Delhi: Hewlett-Packard Co., which last year overtook Dell Inc. as the world’s largest computer vendor, has set its eyes on the mobile phone market, launching its first phone model aimed at the mass consumer market in India on Thursday. The company will launch about half a dozen more models, at prices starting at Rs12,000, by end-August to early-September, company officials said at the launch here.
HP said the increasing complexity of phones will help it leverage its computing experience to deliver cost-effective and high-functionality phones to the common consumer. “Computing is shifting from the desktop and the laptops to the mobile and we want to be there,” said Ashish Gupta, HP India’s product manager for handhelds.
The new phone, specifications of which were unveiled at the 3GSM World Congress, a cellular telecom trade event, in Barcelona in February, is priced at Rs14,000, compared to current ‘smartphone’ models, which combine internet access, email, calendar, word processing and other advanced features, that retail for between Rs10,000 and Rs70,000 in the country.
The HP launch is the second big move by the Palo Alto, California-headed firm towards attacking the mobile phone market. The company made its first move by integrating phone capabilities into its ‘Pocket PC’ range -- the iPAQ -- in late 2004. But the phones failed to make much headway in the consumer market due to a its bulky appearance and design. That problem seemed nixed on Thursday with HP’s phone resembling normal-sized cellphones.
Though it makes under 4% of its revenues in India from the sale of handheld devices and phones, HP has high expectations from its entry into the consumer market with the new range. Quoting figures from the international market researcher IDC, the company said it saw demand for 3.5 milion for smart-phones in India. “The share of Windows mobile -based products is only around 35,000 units for 2007 and we would like to be number one or two in this,” Gupta said.
Windows-based smart phones are yet to find significant demand in the country, despite efforts by players such as iMate and Dopod, with just around 1% share of the market among smartphones against an estimated marketshare of around 3% globally. Most of the market vests with Symbian-based phones from Nokia and Sony Ericsson, but the share of Windows-based phones is expected to grow with the entry of bigger players like the Taiwan-based HTC and HP.
In September last year, IDC predicted that Windows Mobile will capture about a third -- equivalent to 21 million units -- among business users of smartphones by 2010 globally. Mircrosoft has put out a target of selling 20 million such phones this year.
Analysts, however, pointed to the challenge being less in design and pricing and more in marketing. The biggest challenge for HP would be to overcome customers’ familiarity with other brands, says Diptarup Chakraborti, principal research analyst for client computing group at the India offices of market research firm Gartner Inc. “Though they have a strong brand in computers, it may not cut much ice with the consumer who is going to ask ‘what can this company deliver to me on mobile phones’,” he said.
Chakraborti also pointed to the different distribution or channel structure of a mobile phone vendor and a computer vendor. “Price does not seem to be a problem, going by the line-up, but establishing a strong presence in the millions of phone retail outlets will still be a challenge,” he said.