HP Sensibly Shuns U.S. To Launch Its First Android Smartphones

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Once upon a time, HP ruled the computing landscape. From consumer PCs to enterprise solutions, the house that Bill and David built was once the most powerful electronics company. But things are different today. So much so that HP is ignoring its home territory with its recently announced smartphones.

Onlookers will no doubt write off these massive 6- and 7-inch handsets as me-too devices for HP. And for the most part, that assessment would be spot-on. These handsets are nothing special. It’s HP’s go-to-market strategy that’s special.

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Meet the HP Slate 6 and Slate 7. They’re rather mundane handsets with middle-of-the-road specs and cases that look like a cross between the Blackberry Z10 and the Nexus 4. Just don’t look for them in America. Or anywhere else besides India.

These handsets, HP’s first go at Android phones, are launching only in India’s emerging market and not HP’s home market of the US. Smart.

HP has long used India as a test bed for its unproven devices. From WiFi mice to all-in-ones, India gets some of HP’s most wild devices first. The company enjoys a strong brand identity there and the smartphone market is not nearly as rigid.

Here in the States, new flagship smartphones must launch for $199 or $249 on contract. Anything more and the phone will not succeed. The phone must also be available on several wireless carriers, forcing the manufacturer into negotiations that will surely end with the hardware maker being bled dry – not that anyone feels sorry for them.

Launching hardware is difficult, but launching a new phone from an established brand with plenty on the line in the US, is a fool’s errand. HP is right to test the market and work out the bugs in an emerging market.

HP used to launch its latest and greatest hardware in the U.S. first before going overseas. The HP Touchpad hit the U.S. first. It launched its first netbook here. Its first digital camera, printer, and its first pocket computer all launched in the U.S. first. Even its first pocket calculator, the HP-35, launched in the company’s home market first.

If anything, this move shows that the HP of today is not the HP of yesterday. The company is less arrogant. It’s more calculated. It seemingly understands that simply slapping an HP logo onto a product does not guarantee its success. Meg Whitman might actually be turning around the old HP ship with this move.