HP is back into consumer tablets with new Mobility division, but will face tough challenges

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By Kathleen De Vere Comment

HP has formed a new Mobility business unit to produce consumer tablets, reports The Verge, which has gained access to internal documents detailing the company’s plans.

According a company memo circulated today, former Nokia executive vice president Alberto Torres is joining the company to run its brand new Mobility Global Business Unit, and will pick up the title of HP’s senior vice president of mobility.

The new division will “focus on consumer tablets and will expand to additional segments and categories where we believe we can offer differentiated value to our customers,” according to the memo, and will create tablet devices for consumers, small and medium sized businesses. HP’s still-gestating enterprise tablet will stay within the company’s PC group.

HP exited the consumer tablet and smartphone market almost a year ago today, when it announced it would discontinue its line of WebOS devices — a move that killed off the TouchPad tablet and several models of smartphone that ran on the operating system.

The company had tried to pivot into the consumer smartphone and tablet market when it acquired Palm and its WebOS operating system for $1.2 billion in 2010, but its plans never materialized as expected. WebOS was already steadily losing market share by April 2011, and the TouchPad sold poorly upon its release. HP later tried to sell WebOS for the $1.2 billion it paid for it, but failed to find a buyer and eventually made the entire operating system open source.

Although details are scarce at the moment, it will be a considerable challenge for HP to break into the consumer tablet market. Since it retreated from the space, Amazon’s Kindle Fire and new the Android-based Nexus 7 have made their debuts, both proving to be popular and well received alternatives to the current market leader, Apple’s iPad. Samsung, Asus and Motorola also make popular Android-based tablets. HP will also now be competing with Microsoft, which has announced it will enter the market this fall with its upcoming line of Surface tablets.

The full wording of the HP memo can be read on The Verge.