HP’s Meg Whitman: “No plans to introduce a smartphone in 2013”

how to fix hp a new ceo cant do it alone hewlett packard headquarters fpHewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman has said that while the company has its eye on the smartphone market, it has no plans to introduce such a device this year or next. Whitman broke the news during an analyst day at HP, saying specifically that “we don’t have any plans to introduce a smartphone in 2013.”

She followed this by saying “we’ve got to start thinking about what is our unique play,” and questioning how the company could “capture this element of the personal computing market.”

Whitman continued by saying that in five years time, if HP doesn’t have a smartphone or whatever the equivalent device may be at the time, “we’ll be locked out of a huge segment of the population in many countries of the world.”

The language used is quite defeatist, as it’s all about what HP won’t be doing and the consequences of not doing something in the future, rather than what it will be doing to avoid that situation.

This theme continued when the conversation turned to tablets. “The consumer market, I would argue, is quite well-served by the tablet in the marketplace today from Apple,” she is quoted as saying. So, a ringing endorsement for the iPad from the CEO of HP, and one for the big screen at the next iPad event.

HP’s Mobility Division, Gram and the future

However, put these statements together with those made to Fox Business last month, and the picture changes. Whitman said HP is one year into a five-year restructuring plan, which clarifies her comments above slightly, and that the company was working on eventually offering a smartphone.

It’s a difficult situation, as entering the market (again) could be equally as costly as ignoring it. HP knows this, and during that same interview Whitman made a point of saying the company wasn’t rushing into making a smartphone, and that it was better to wait until it was likely to be successful before making a move.

Bubbling under all this is the recently founded Mobility division headed up by ex-MeeGo boss Alberto Torres, and Gram, the name given to the remains of Palm and HP’s webOS Global Business Unit. A leaked memo published by webOSNation.com says that Gram is “a new company in stealth mode on our product offering,” which won’t be hardware, but software instead.

As for the Mobility division, according to the memo introducing it and Torres, the initial focus will be on “consumer tablets” and Torres’ first job being to “accelerate HP’s tablet strategy.” Yes, the segment that’s in the CEO’s mind is best left to Apple.

So, everything is as clear as mud over at HP, then.