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HP lures Motorola exec to scrutinize new gadget group

The new division president is already pondering major changes, including the possibility of revamping HP's Jornada handheld computer.

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HP joins the gadget race
Iain Morris, group president, Hewlett-Packard
Hewlett-Packard has created a new division for its handheld computers and other mobile gadgets, merging several groups and luring Motorola's top U.S. cell phone executive to lead the effort.

After spending the last 23 years at Motorola, Iain Morris on Monday will take over the new Embedded and Personal Systems group, one of five top-level product groups at HP. As president of the group, Morris will oversee HP's Jornada handheld computers and the Chai clone of Sun Microsystems' Java software, as well as calculators, wireless services, CD recorders and wireless services for mobile devices.

In his first 100 days, the 44-year-old executive will scrutinize every aspect of his new 400-employee domain. That includes looking at major changes for the Jornada in particular, such as the possibility of changing its operating system, Morris said in a telephone interview from his boat in Palm Beach, Fla.

"Everything is going to come under extreme analysis," he said.

Jornada is a strong product, Morris said, but he acknowledged that the product hasn't reached its potential.

In possible overhauls to Jornada, HP will consider switching to a new operating system, such as Linux or the dominant Palm OS, Morris said. Currently, the Jornada is based on Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system.

The Jornada is one of the top-selling handhelds based on Pocket PC, but it holds just a small fraction of the overall handheld market. In January, the device had 3.5 percent of the U.S. retail market, up from 2 percent in December, according to market researcher PC Data.

"Jornada as a product has an opportunity to become more successful," Morris said.

HP announced Tuesday that it is working to add cell phone capabilities to the Jornada. In the future, Morris said, the company may add others features to the handheld. For example, the device could act as an electronic wallet or control a household's alarm system from a remote location, he said.

Another area that Morris will examine is HP's years-long dispute with Sun over the use of Sun's Java software in gadgets. HP has cloned Java with a product called Chai and would like to subject it to Sun's tests that assure compatibility with certified versions of Java. But HP has steadfastly maintained it shouldn't have to license Java to take those tests.

In contrast, Motorola is a Java licensee and is second only to Sun in the advocacy of using Java in gadgets. Motorola hopes to include Java in all its handheld devices, including cell phones and two-way pagers.

A memo from HP Chief Executive Carly Fiorina in June led to the new, elevated status of mobile devices at the company. Morris said his division will target both business and consumer markets. "I think we'll bridge both areas," he said.

Each market "certainly requires different approaches and may require different products," he added.

Morris will also examine where the products under his purview tie in with other HP products such as printers or PCs, he said.

In addition, Morris will oversee online services that target mobile devices, such as stock quotes, maps and news. HP already has partnerships with online service providers GoAmerica and OmniSky. On Wednesday, HP announced a new partnership with Deutsche Telekom's T-Motion service.

At Motorola, Morris most recently worked as general manager of the company's personal communications sector for the Americas, where he had responsibility for cell phones and pagers. As such, he has been steeped in the world of portable electronic devices.

"I really love gadgets," Morris said.