In the recap moments of HP's Think Beyond event last week, company executives quickly mentioned that WebOS - the mobile operating system that the company inherited with the Palm acquisition - would be found in a number of products, including PCs. That, of course, left me wondering: What does that mean for Microsoft Windows?
In a Q&A with the Seattle Times, Phil McKinney, CTO of HP's Personal Systems Group, hints that the company's "great partnership with Microsoft" will remain great, seeing how there's still a big demand for the personal computer. But McKinney noted that, even with their PCs, consumers want integration with their other devices, including mobile phones and tablets. Today, he said, those devices "act as individual information islands."
That's where WebOS comes in to bring them all together. But how? McKinney responds by saying that HP will integrate the WebOS experience into Windows, but not through virtualization. He said: "...it will be a combination of taking the existing operating systems and bringing WebOS onto those platforms and making it universal across all of our footprint."
Here's a thought, though: If you're HP and you really want to create this integrated world where PC and tablet and mobile phone are all synced and working hand-in-hand (which is pretty much what the cloud does) AND you're Microsoft's largest customer, why not just hop up to Redmond, sit down with the Windows 8 development team and tell them what you want in the new OS?
McKinney kind of dodged that question in the Q&A but noted that HP wants to bring an "enhancement" to Windows with the WebOS integration.
As readers suggested in the comments section of my What About Windows post last week, HP isn't about to "replace" Windows with WebOS - there's still way too much life left in the PC market and too much uncertainty around WebOS as the new guy on the block to just make some sort of sudden shift.
But make no mistake, when it comes to mobile and app development and integration across multiple devices, HP is controlling its own destiny by investing heavily in WebOS. From the Q&A:
...you're obviously seeing the huge effort here. We do have the Slate 500 Win 7 device that's out there. It's an enterprise-focused device. Enterprise customers like that from the standpoint that they can install their own security models that they're quite familiar with. But when you look at where we think the mobile platform operating system is, our obvious focus is WebOS.
Does that spell bad news for Microsoft over the long-term? Not necessarily. McKinney stresses that PCs are not going away anytime soon, but HP also sees a different path for its long-term mobile strategy - and that's centered around WebOS. McKinney, talking about how things have evolved from the original slate project five years ago, continued:
Windows is a great operating system and it's appropriate for the tasks it's designed to do. And there are other operating systems that are designed for different kinds of tasks.
Once again, it's another warning sign for Microsoft that times are a-changing - and, unless Microsoft starts to step up its game, it could be left out in the cold during future shifts in technology.