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HP lays cuckoo egg in Microsoft nest

webOS among the Windows

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Is it safe? Is it safe?

Microsoft's business relationship with HP is probably safe, at least on the traditional PC and notebook form factor side of things. The same cannot be said of tablets or phones. Here, HP is joining Dell and others in putting non-Windows operating systems on phones and tablets. In every other case, the non-Windows operating system is Android. Dell, for example, is working on a roadmap for tablets featuring eight Android fondleslabs and just two Windows machines by early 2012. One of those is Windows 7 and the other the yet-to-launch Windows 8.

Buried in Businessweek's article is the real reason HP is making greater use of webOS. It's also a reason why Microsoft's traditional PC OEM business shouldn't be sweating too much. According to HP, there are just 6,000 apps for webOS, compared to 350,000 for Apple's various mobile devices available and 250,000 for Android from Google's market.

A scroll through the Palm Market reveals that HP, like Apple and Google, has web apps for music, social networking, gaming, and business and finance services. There are no web-based personal productivity apps from Microsoft or anyone else - just more web widgets.

The Palm Market is therefore just another app store, less broad and not as popular as the others. HP knows this and realizes it must make something of the assets it spent $1.2bn buying last year.

HP clearly hopes to attract coders to webOS by giving it instant ubiquity thanks to its PC market share. The devs it wants are those using HTML, Javascript, and CSS used to build for webOS.

Apotheker admits in the piece he wants to make better use of webOS, but this isn't necessarily an Apotheker strategy. Before he arrived, in May 2010. HP was talking webOS on printers.

The sale of PCs sold pre-installed with Windows remains solid, and HP won't jeopardize that for business, consumers, or channel partners. HP's decision to put webOS on millions of PCs is designed to help finally make something of last year's purchase of Palm. If HP is successful, its Windows PCs will simply become more webified.

In this way, HP is just the latest Silicon Valley tech company chanting "developers, developers, developers" - hoping to those who build the apps people download and use will now build for their hardware, thereby increasing its appeal and saleability. HP has been trying to convince world+dog - and itself - for years that it's one of the world's largest software companies when - even by its own numbers - it is a tiny player. HP made more on sales of printers, ink, and paper during its most recent fiscal year of 2010 - $25bn - than it did on software, $3.6bn.

It's around the edges – in new markets and on new devices, away from the traditional PC - that things between Microsoft and HP are starting to crack. And here, HP is no different to companies like Dell embracing non-Windows operating systems, primarily Android, for tablets and phones.

It was HP after all - Microsoft's biggest partner on Windows - who wasn't in the first wave of OEMs making phones installed with Windows Phone 7 during 2010 and who bought Palm with webOS instead. Also, HP dumped Microsoft's Windows Home Server on its home media centers to "put additional resources on webOS initiatives" according to HP marketing manager Allen Buckner.®

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