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The HP Veer Gamble
by Dieter Bohn on 2/9/2011 | Filed Under: News; Tags: hp veer, Veer, thinkbeyond | 83 comments

The big question about the HP Veer: will there be a market for it? HP certainly thinks so - in addition to the obvious evidence that they went to the trouble to develop the tiny, powerful smartphone, they also assured us that their market testing indicated that there is a large market of "smartphone intenders" who are smitten with the Veer even when lined up against the iPhone and the Droid 2.

The worry, however, is that we've heard this story before. The KIN ONE, the Pixi, and any one of the low-end Motorola Android phones have all failed to find significant traction in the market. The reasons have different from device to device, but the story generally includes: Data plans that are too expensive, bad marketing, too little carrier support, difficulty competing with the $99 iPhone, underpowered hardware, lack of sex-appeal for the target market, and plenty more.

In fact, the big question is whether it's even possible to launch a "low end smartphone" anymore. I am a little worried that Palm is still smitten with the success they had with the Centro - a low end Palm OS device that finally made good on Palm's attempt to get at the consumer market that they originally tried to hit with the "mobile accomplisher" Treo 680.

Of all of those devices, I do want to believe that the Veer is best-positioned to succeed and that it does have a chance to, but the odds against it are significant. Read on.

In terms of form factor: I said in the PalmCast last night that they need to have a phone that's as compelling as the RAZR was. I don't think the Veer quite reaches that level, but truth be told it's an incredibly fun device and the hardware feels solid - in fact I prefer the Veer's keyboard to the keyboard on the Pre 3.

In terms of power: the Veer runs a new Qualcomm processor that feels quite snappy - in my short time with it it genuinely felt as fast and powerful as the Pre 2. Although the non-removable battery is quite small, HP contends that the Qualcomm processor is low-power enough to last through a day. I still have doubts about that magnetic connector, which will serve triple duty as a charger, data sync point, and adapter-home for a 3.5mm headset jack - that last is especially disappointing.

In terms of marketing: it's an open question, but HP made sure to point out that we have never seen a webOS device (or PalmOS device, for that matter) that will get the kind of huge marketing push that HP has planned for their new lineup. They used the term "Rolling thunder" to describe the scope of this push.

In terms of pricing: we'll see, but to my mind anything over $50 on contract is too much.

In terms of carrier support: we'll see again. The story of Verizon cutting the knees out from the KIN ONE by denying it a cheaper data plan is scary. The idea that the market HP is targeting will be willing to shell out an extra $30 per month for unlimited data is an open question - if HP and their carrier partners are able to craft a lower-cost option it will be a big deal. That carrier, by the way, is almost surely AT&T in the US, as the Veer is HSPA+ only.

In other words, there are a lot of reasons the Veer could fail. HP may need to hit every single aspect of this launch and this product out of the park in order to ensure anything other than a failure. We've seen plenty of companies bewitched by their own market research (cf. KIN and the Pixi). Hopefully the Veer won't be yet another miss in the attempt to capture the market of people who are intimated by smartphones but still want the functionality they offer.