HP rocks Redmond with webOS PC play
Wintel giant makes like Apple
When the world's largest computer maker announced that it plans to equip laptops and desktops with its own operating system, you can be sure that the squeals emanating from Redmond's corner offices were not squeals of delight. And we're guessing the denizens of Cupertino's executive suites pricked up their ears as well.
On Wednesday morning, at a press event unveiling its new webOS-based TouchPad and a pair of webOS phones, HP said that it would bring its Palm-acquired operating system "to the HP devices with the broadest reach," meaning PCs. And Just to make sure that no one missed the implications of that blockbuster, Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP's personal systems group, stood in front of a slide that included images of laptop and desktop PCs with "HP webOS" emblazoned on their displays.
Bradley provided no details about HP's webOS-on-computers plans, such as what levels of devices are planned, but he did say that webOS PCs would appear "later this year."
If you flash back to just a decade ago, Windows was the undisputed ruler of the personal computer operating systems, with Apple's Mac OS X hanging on to only a tiny slice, and Linux the province of only the geekerati. But we're now poised on a new world order. By the end of the year, we should see those webOS for PCs, Apple's iOS/Mac OS X mashup Lion, and the first machines with Google's web-centric Chrome OS.
The operating-system wars are back – with a vengeance.
This time around, Lion and webOS – and, to a lesser extent, Chrome OS – have one distinct advantage over Windows: integration of mobile and desktop operating-system look, feel, and function.
We know nothing of Lion other than what Steve Jobs has told us – and he's told us precious little. He did say, however, that Lion would be a marriage of Mac OS X and iOS, with its user interface relying on a keyboard and an input device such as a multi-touch mouse or trackpad, rather than a multi-touch display à la iOS.
We know even less about HP's plans for desktop and laptop webOS – but it's dollars to donuts that the similarities between webOS in your pocket and webOS on your desk will be far greater than the similarities between Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 – similarities that don't exist in any meaningful way.
Lion/iOS and webOS have another advantage over Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7: unified code bases. Apple's two converging operating systems are joined at the hip, both built around the Unix-based Mac OS X. HP's webOS, although it will surely sprout different features for each platform, remains, at its core, the same open source webOS. All else being equal, one core code base – proprietary or open – is better than two.
Not that Windows will swiftly wither and die when faced with increasingly robust competition. Its massive installed base of both PCs and x86 apps provides powerful momentum. In addition, Microsoft has a staggeringly large enterprise presence. We don't see webOS servers in our crystal ball, and no doubt, HP will continue to offer Windows PCs as well as webOS models – at least for the time being.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has promised that Windows 8 will be ported to ARM processors – the mobile-device chip of choice. But recent rumors put Windows 8's retail availabilty as not being until January 2013. A lot can happen in two years – such as further erosion of Windows' market share thanks to both the mobile-device revolution and the combined share-eating attacks by Apple's iOS and Lion, HP's webOS, and Google's Android and Chrome OS.
It's also to be expected that as Microsoft feels more competition, execs in such places as Dell's Round Rock, Texas, headquarters and Acer's New Taipei City, Taiwan, command center may very well find themselves in better negotiating positions when dealing with Redmond.
But although the mood can't be all that perky among Ballmer & Co's brain trust this week, they are surely comforted by Microsoft's $41bn pile of cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments, and its market capitalization of around $235bn. The operating system wars may reigniting, but Redmond's arsenal is a formidable one.
Still, the surprise appearance of a new desktop and laptop operating system from such a high-profile company as HP can't be good news to Microsoft. The squeals, we're guessing, were very loud indeed. ®
...except that the physics is wrong. Microsoft's "massive installed base" isn't "momentum". It's "inertia".
You could look at the ratio of arrogance/size of market against imminent decline. Look at IBM for one. General Motors for another. Don't get me wrong, they are still big companies but there are plenty examples of companies hitting a certain size and influence seeming to think that their way is right, and failing to listen to or watch the clients/public. Google will be interesting a decade from now....I think that Schmidt was an example of that hyper-business arrogance...google were right to remove/ask him to leave/[insert your politically correct word of choice here] from his position. Also google are insinuating themselves into the internet web from end to end.
I wonder...But apple will also tilt over as it stands, short of releasing OS X into the wild. The level of control they are exhibiting is reminiscent of a few failures and has a way of biting companies on the arse. When SJ is no longer at the helm, you will see a similar fall like M$ and Gates leaving. Mainly because the other corporate beings start the usual attempt at their version of what they think the business should be, and the personalities are such that they enter a feedback loop of self referential support of Wiki like proportions and the long slow death of the behemoth begins.
So I was sitting here reading this and the thought occurred to me that from an IT professional angle this isnt such a great thing playing out on the desktop.
Right now, we, as a community really have to deal with 3 OSes:
Windows (say 90-95% of desktop/ anywhere from 10-90% of servers depending)
MacOS (lets face it - about 5-10% of our desktop community give or take unless you are a big Mac shop)
Linux/Unix (say 1-5% of desktop in a large corp, maybe more in an adventurous smaller company, 10-90% of your server install)
So realistically, and not trying to put anyone down, and yes its with a big wide brush, you end up with your desktop support team being primarily windows with some MacOS skills, and your server team being a Win/Linux (Winux?) type of person. And the network guys over in the corner being grumpy old sods who dont agree with anything :)
So how does all this play into the support model? BES was bad enough. iPhone and Android at least both play into the same ActiveSync/IMAP/POP space. Palms - I mean WebOS? And if this spreads to the table/desktop fields then what?
One of the beautiful things about the whole Winux world is that the systems do, to some degree, play nicely with each other. Common file formats, mostly common applications give or take IIS/Apache and Exchange. One of the reasons I always thought MacOS failed in the server space was because of all the extensions they introduced (the .crap files littered everywhere) and the fact that they did have to think different to do the same things. So moving back to the desktop, OpenOffice for example plays well on both and files cascade around. Gimp/Photoshop play well together. Etc. Etc. But where does a more closed eco system like WebOS come in?
I cant see it becoming widely adopted, and on the corporate front, I cant see it becoming widely supported. But then maybe I'm becoming a crusty old geek these days.
did HP just do something disruptive and controversial?
not quite back to the glory days but gone on you.
revelling in some low-key schaudenfreude, swivel on that monkey-boy.
off-topic: any chance elreg could not use "mashup" except in an ironic or sarcastic finger-pointing way? thx.
competition is good but....
Is it just me, but the competition seems to be sat squarely in the home user and non business user. While this is an important area. As an IT manager, despite wanting to find decent alternatives to Microsofts OS tax, I find myself returning to it time and again when my professional name is on the line.
Don't get me wrong here. I love linux, and use it wherever possible. IOs, Android, and WebOS are very goof mobile OS's. However, Linux still hasn't got anything to match the slickness and manageability of Active Directory, and non of the new mobile OSs truly have the enterprise ready features I need in my work place.
The same seems to be equally true in other areas such as web browsers. I despise IE, yet a move to firefox and chrome is just a none starter due to the extremely poor manageability tools.
If hp, really want to take over the world, they need to give WEBos some real enterprise credentials to match its great usability.