Editorial: The un-penetrated market of non-smartphone users | webOS Nation

Editorial: The un-penetrated market of non-smartphone users

by Tim Stiffler-Dean Mon, 23 May 2011 8:59 am EDT

Now that the AT&T HP Veer 4G has been released, there are plenty stories of people switching from other platforms because of this tiny device. It certainly does not look as though the Veer is going to be driving the masses of tech-junkies to sites like PreCentral and into our forums to learn more and get involved in webOS. This has been quite the bit of contention for a lot of the discussions of late - the HP Veer might be a great little device, but it's not enough. Android and iOS users are still more interested in their current devices (or the next update) than in the up-and-coming webOS platform (which they thought had died two years ago with the so-called abysmal Pre launch). You can see this by looking at the chart on right, which still shows our device sadly listed under the "Other" tag.

As the most passionate community of mobile device owners out there, the team of webOS users that inhabit this website are regularly concerned about what HP is doing to convert other smartphone users over to the platform. What kind of incentive is HP giving to these other smartphone users to make them desire webOS once again? With the first webOS device to be released since last year being the very tiny Veer, quite a few people are upset at the direction HP seems to be going. Those that are most passionately in love with their webOS devices are also the more passionately upset when it comes to what we might see as poor decisions by the makers of these devices, even though we don't know all of the details of these launches or products also in the pipeline.

It's worth considering that HP may not be entirely focused on converting other smartphone users to the webOS platform, but are instead focusing on those non-smartphone users that are still out there in huge markets all over the world. Asymco.com, a leader in mobile tech research and a provider of many excellent reports on real world data from smartphone users, has recently gave the world a simple chart (above) that breaks down the various devices that are widely used based on percentage of device owners. The overwhelming leader in this chart, far bigger than all of webOS, RIM, Windows and even iOS or Android users - combined - is the block of people who are still using non-smartphones on a regular basis. There are three times as many people not using smartphones as there are all of those smartphone users combined. 

The question is not, "Can HP create a series of devices that will beat the iPhone or EVO at the smartphone game?" but instead, "Can HP release devices that will bring people into the smartphone world for the very first time using webOS?" There are several billion people in the world that have yet to own or use a smartphone - it is in the best interest of every manufacturer, including HP, to dive into that untapped market of non-users to bring them into the ecosystem.

This is exactly where HP has a huge advantage over the competition as well, at least that's what Leo Apotheker is banking on. As they are the world's largest computer and printer manufacturer, making devices that people from every walk of life will use whether they own a smartphone or not, they can introduce people to webOS much more easily than Android or iOS is able to (especially once webOS is on PC's or printers). With webOS running in people's homes, what kind of smartphone will they get when they finally decide to purchase one? They'll go with the platform that they are familiar with - the one that's already on their computer/printer and that has a similar form factor to the phones they've been using all of their lives (small flip phones, not huge bricks).

HP also recently hired Jukka Tiitu as the new VP of webOS and Carrier Markets, over Europe, Middle-East and Africa. Tiitu comes with a strong history working at Nokia in the same field, and if you know Nokia, you will know that this is great news for webOS. Nokia is currently the #1 phone manufacturer in those three major regions. With one of the major players in Nokia's success now joining the HP webOS team, you can expect some bases to be gained where Nokia was once bringing in the runs, and where iOS/Android were striking out entirely.

The world is much bigger than the small group of American and Western-European critics who say that the Veer is inadequate as a smartphone, and I believe this will be shown even more clearly within the year as webOS devices, including the Veer, are launched in markets all around the world. The Veer absolutely is a device for non-smartphone users (just look at the reviews from those new to the group), because that's the only market left for smartphone manufacturers to conquer. There is a strong need for HP to bring us a large slab at some point and a powerful tablet, I think we can agree on that. But there is also a need for HP to listen to the much larger group of potential buyers, non-smartphone users, and find out what they want in a device.

They want something simple to use, familiar to their lifestyle, and built by a company that they trust. HP has all three: webOS is simple to use, the Veer has a form factor similar to the small flip-phones that still dominate the world of phone users, and HP is the #1 computer and printer manufacturer in the world because they have built a name that people trust. These are the facts, and while we can still be disappointed in the current actions of HP in not demanding the Pre 3 to come to Sprint or giving us 2.x on our older devices or not giving us a release date for a slab - we must also realize that selling new devices to the same 100 Million people is not going to make a company profitable. Making devices that attract the other 7 Billion people in the world definitely will.

We are still in the very early stages of seeing who penetrates the market the most over the next several years, but I can't help but make a bet that HP is going to have a pretty good foundation to stand on soon. Maybe it's not right now, and maybe it won't be in the form that we want it to be, but it's coming. They are #1 in the world, bigger than Apple, Samsung, Dell and others, for a reason. But they didn't get to that point overnight, and Rome wasn't built in a day. Give them a bit more time, and I think we'll see a lot more good coming to our community than is currently expected.

Via: Asymco.com