It certainly could, if it were willing to spend what it takes, says an analyst. But that’s a big if.

“Without significant increase in spending to woo channel and software partners,” writes Rodman & Renshaw’s Ashok Kumar in a provocative note to clients issued Monday, “HP’s acquisition of Palm will likely fail.”

Kumar offers a scenario in which HP HPQ revives Palm’s PALM flagging WebOS platform and successfully challenges both Apple AAPL and Google GOOG by licensing its smartphone software and building a new tablet computer to take on the iPad.

But first he makes some predictions that are sure to ruffle a few feathers — and will soon be put to the test. Among them:

  • “The smartphone ecosystem has consolidated around two camps — Apple and Android.”
  • “RIM RIMM is not likely to do much better than maintain share with its OS refresh.”
  • “The odds are stacked against the survival of Symbian… If Nokia NOK fails to achieve traction with Symbian^4, it will be forced to abandon the platform in favor of either Android or Windows Phone 7 OS.”
  • “[Microsoft’s MSFT ] Windows Mobile remains a wild card.”
  • And finally: “Apple will likely end its exclusive relationships beginning with the launch of the 4G iPhone.”

Of all the major IT vendors, writes Kumar, Hewlett-Packard has built the most sophisticated PC sales channel. It’s hard to believe that it couldn’t do the same for Palm’s smartphones, if it were willing to spend what it takes to do it.

“And there is the problem,” he concludes. “HP CEO Mark Hurd doesn’t like spending money nearly as much as he likes trimming costs and he already spent over a $1B on Palm.”

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]