HP mulls dropping WinCE for Palm or Linux

An ex-Motorola exec admits...

Hewlett-Packard is considering dumping Microsoft and hopping into bed with Palm, the company's incoming Embedded and Personal Systems chief, Iain Morris, has admitted.

To be fair, we're not talking a company-wide move to turn its corporate back on Windows here. Morris, who takes up his new post on Monday, will take charge of HP's Journada handheld, and it's that device's OS that he's thinking of changing.

Interviewed by CNET, Morris said that Journada has failed to reach its true potential, despite being what he calls a strong product. In short, it hasn't been selling very well. True, Microsoft's Windows CE - the OS Journada is currently based upon - saw its marketshare rise slightly last month (see yesterday's story, PocketPC wins marketshare from Palm), but that's more a sign of Palm's success over the Christmas sales period than growing support for the Microsoft platform. HP's share of the PDA market rose to three per cent between December 2000 and January, according to US retail market watcher PC Data.

Palm's dominant marketshare has clearly got Morris thinking. And 23 years spent at Motorola, maker of the Palm platform's Dragonball processor, may well have influenced his decision too. That said, he's also wondering whether Linux might make a better alternative, so he's clearly not pro-Palm so much as anti-CE.

Actually, Linux may well prove a better choice for HP, simply because it's both more powerful than the current PalmOS, cheaper and probably easier to port to Journada's existing hardware design. Then again, it lacks the PDA-oriented features and apps that have made Palm so successful.

A possible switch of OS for Journada is one part of Morris' wide-ranging examination of all aspects of his divisions' operations, so it's important for Palm fans not to assume it's all done and dusted. However, it does imply that one-time strong Windows CE proponents are willing to look elsewhere if they believe the OS is hindering their sales rather than helping them. ®

Related Link

CNET's interview with HP's Iain Morris in full

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