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HP promises App Store and Microsoft love in webOS world

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Hewlett-Packard has unveiled an imaginative cloud strategy apparently founded on the imaginative powers of its marketing people.

The computing and services company said on Monday that it plans an Amazon-like public cloud and Apple-like app store that serves apps to consumers and business users on smart devices.

HP CEO Leo Apotheker claimed the infrastructure part of the service is already rolling out and the app store will land between now and 2012.

HP's cloud and its app store will be based on - and will deliver software based on - technology that it has both acquired and built, in addition to software from partners.

But it's far from clear what software HP is using to build its compute and storage fabric. Apotheker refused to comment on whether HP is using Microsoft's Azure - as the companies said it would in July 2010.

The cloud announcement was part of an HP Strategy Day in San Francisco, California. During the event, HP stressed that its relationship with Microsoft remains as strong as ever despite dodging on Azure and despite Apotheker promising "wave after wave" of earth-bound devices coming from HP running the web-happy webOS. HP acquired the OS when it bought Palm, and it runs a Linux kernel instead of Windows. HP is Microsoft's biggest single partner on Windows.

Apotheker even went as far as to ding Windows 7 - Microsoft's current operating system - as not being ready for use on the kinds of multi-touch tablets his company's planning later this year. The webOS-based TouchPad's due in June.

webOS will ship on HP smart phones, touch pads, PCs, and printers reaching 100 million devices, Apotheker said. He enthused about webOS's ability to connect to the web and other devices.

Asked by The Reg during a press conference at the strategy day whether we can also expect tablets running Windows 7 and Windows 8 in addition to webOS, Apotheker replied: "We will ship webOS tabs and Windows tablets. We just need the right version of Windows to do that."

HP has just a single Windows tablet in the market - the HP Slate 500, which shipped to indifferent reviews.

"This will become a very massive very broad platform," Apotheker predicted of webOS.

Microsoft is now in the process of building Windows 8, which will have a form factor built from the ground-up for tablets, run on ARM architectures so beloved of embedded systems, and is expected to support multi-touch input. Ahead of that, OEMs such as OEM have Windows 7, which has some limited multi-touch and runs only on Intel chips.

Apotheker stopped briefly to gild HP's strategy with the necessary corporate platitudes: "Just to be absolutely clear," he said. "Microsoft is a great partner, Microsoft will remain a great partner. The way we leverage webOS will let us leverage the Microsoft ecosystem too."

Devices were just one part of HP's strategy day. The other was cloud, and it was here that HP's imagination really kicked in.

Apotheker said that HP is building an open platform using its own software plus software bought through acquisitions and delivered through partnerships. HP's cloud will allow developers to build, test, and deploy services, he said.

HP's CEO promised the company would deliver an infrastructure as a service cloud and a platform as a service cloud, with the former rolling out now and the latter including an app store between 2011 and 2012.

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