While HP has been very clear since the February unveiling of its Elite x3 that this device targets the enterprise, the firm recently revealed to me that it has another audience in mind as well: Windows phone enthusiasts.
I’ve tried to be very clear when it comes to the future of Windows phone, since some enthusiasts seem to believe that their favorite platform could experience some kind of a miraculous rebound and once again take on iPhone or Android in the consumer smartphone market. That’s not going to happen, and neither Microsoft—the platform maker—or HP has any plans to make it happen, ever.
But even 1 percent usage in a market the size of that for smartphones equates to tens of millions of people. And for HP, which is marketing the HP Elite x3 as a “mobility as a service” offering—a PC with attached services, really—those kinds of numbers are worth attracting. Especially when the people still using Windows phones in 2016 are, by definition, enthusiasts for a platform that the rest of the world ignores.
So what’s the potential market size for something like the Elite x3? Not tens of millions of course. And probably not even single digit millions. But a million? Half a million? Those kinds of numbers are uninteresting when compared to the sales numbers Apple and Samsung put up each quarter. But in the PC market, where even the best-selling PC models rarely sell above such milestones, the Elite x3 could actually make a dent. In the PC space, which is where this device fundamentally competes, the Elite x3 actually starts to make some sense.
As does attracting Windows phone enthusiasts at a time when most are fuming over the failings of the poorly received Lumia 950 and about Microsoft’s continued silence. Sure, a Surface phone could appear in 2017, but let’s face it: It won’t be very different from the Elite x3. And given that, why wait? The Elite x3 is available now. And it’s a monster.
“There are lots of Windows phone advocates out there,” HP vice president Michael Park said in a recent briefing. “People will buy it because it’s a Windows phone. [Some percentage of share] of that business is great. And as a CYOD [choose your own device] play, there is huge opportunity in Europe in particular” [where interest in Windows phone remains relatively strong].
As I had communicated back in February, yes, the HP Elite x3 very specifically targets the enterprise market. That’s quite obvious. And the device’s one-off pricing—$600 for just the phone, or $700 with a dock—reflects the actual cost of selling the x3, but will still be attractive to those who simply cannot stomach the notion of dropping Windows phone and moving to a rival platform.
Those people are out there. The only question is how many of them there are, and how many are willing to buy an x3 at full-cost. Well, we’re about to find out.