Palm-HP: Microsoft bites bigtime

Palm-HP: Microsoft bites bigtime

Summary: Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday pulls out $1.2 billion and goes all in with a bet for Palm. Most analysts say the buyout is for Palm's WebOS operating system. While PC-market fingers will point to Apple and its iPhone OS as the potential losers, the real dunce cap must be placed on Microsoft. And the winner? Apple.

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Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday pulls out $1.2 billion and goes all in with a bet for Palm. Most analysts say the buyout is for Palm's WebOS operating system. While PC-market fingers will point to Apple and its iPhone OS as the potential losers, the real dunce cap must be placed on Microsoft. And the winner? Apple.

The deal must be worrying executives and coders alike in Microsoft's Windows 7 and its Kin-based Windows Phone teams. And even down the hall with the Singularity OS, shown a couple of years ago at Research Techfest 2008.

Certainly, such a solid technology partner as HP has been deeply involved in evaluating Microsoft's OS road maps. For example, it was Steve Ballmer himself who took the wraps off of HP's Slate tablet computer at CES in January.  At the demonstration, the device ran Windows 7.

Check out HP Slate with webOS: The potential iPad rival from HP's acquisition of Palm

HP must also be well acquainted with Microsoft's Kin phone strategy. Here are several relevant items on Kin from Mary-Jo Foley's All About Microsoft blog.

Kin phones make use of the “same core elements as Windows Phone 7.” The Kin isn’t a dumbed-down Windows Phone (as we’d been hearing it might be). Kin phones have Exchange connectivity, Zune music/video capabilities and dedicated Bing search buttons, just like Windows Phone 7 phones will.

There are no apps for the Kin. No app marketplace and nothing other than the Kin service which will connect users to their Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Kin Studio (cloud services collection). At least for now, there are no plans to introduce apps for the Kin devices.

Yet, a few months after the Ballmer introduction of the Slate, HP is making moves to ditch Windows 7 for its tablet/reader devices. And in another rejection of the Redmond sauce, the Kin OS, HP appears ready to use the Palm WebOS for its smart phones and tablets. Ouch, harsh!

According to Wayne Rash at the CTOEdge blog the Palm-HP mix is the "perfect pairing."

So here’s what the future could hold. Palm uses its well designed iPaq hardware to run the Palm OS, and for a change gets a competitive smart phone. The Pre and the Pixi either get re-engineered by HP into something more useful, or they fade away. Meanwhile, HP’s tablet gets an OS suitable for a portable device.

Perhaps HP will take a lesson from Apple and the iPad: that users prefer a simpler non-windowing environment for these tablet devices instead of any flavor of the traditional Windows desktop interface.

So, why is Apple the winner? Microsoft's technology brand takes another hit. No doubt, HP will take a while to integrate WebOS into its product lines. When the Slate comes out, Apple will dominate the tablet and e-reader market (actually, it already has). And in the meantime, Apple will rollout a new version of its mobile OS this summer, and perhaps prep another rev for a year's time. Apple has shown that it has a coherent technology and market strategy for its technologies and can execute on them, something that no PC company seems capable of.

[If you're interested in a bit of history about Apple and BeOS, the predecessor to Palm's WebOS, check out my post Who should be thanked for the return of Mr. Jobs to Apple? It runs down Apple's negotiations for BeOS in 1996.]

Topics: Laptops, Apple, Telcos, Tablets, Software, Operating Systems, Mobility, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Hardware, Windows

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40 comments
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  • Great OS for tablets

    HP clearly recognizes that a heavy Windows desktop OS on tablets will not cut it.

    Tablet devices, as demonstrated by Apple's iPad, need to be:
    - simple & intuitive
    - touch-optimized
    - low/no maintenance
    - instant/always on
    - very responsive
    - low cost
    - resource optimized (CPU, memory, battery, ...)

    Aside from a great UI, local applications for WebOS are even developed using web programming technologies (HTML5, JavaScript, CSS, ...). This makes it relatively straight forward for developers to build WebOS applications that are:
    1. entirely local
    2. partially local, partially web
    3. entirely web

    I'm an Android fan, but I can definitely appreciate WebOS's potential. Hopefully, it will get more traction, with HP behind it.
    linuser
    • The only question is how long it will take HP to field an Arm based tablet?

      The Palm engineers will have the OS ready for
      tablets in no time.
      DonnieBoy
  • RE: Palm-HP: Microsoft bites bigtime

    Amen to that!
    nessrapp
  • I'm not sure I buy it.

    I still don't believe there's room for a Windows 7 Mobile, and
    if there's not-there's certainly not room for the WebOS.
    matthew_maurice
    • Well, HP has a global presence, and money to invest.

      But, the big question is how much this buys HP
      in comparison to going Android, and if they can
      survive against iPad and Android for tablets.
      Google and partners may be able to out innovate
      HP on tablet / smart phone OSes.
      DonnieBoy
      • The BIG question is how HP would attract developers ...

        ... because it's the apps that count.

        HP have never ever succeeded in creating, building and fostering a strong developer community around any of its products.
        de-void-21165590650301806002836337787023
        • "HP have never ever succeeded..."

          However, HP has also never been at the point it is now, not relying on a
          partner's OS to operate their hardware. Even with Linux, they still had
          to rely on Linux coders and Linux developers to write software for their
          machines sold with Linux installed; in this case, by using the WebOS
          from Palm, they already have a start, and if they can demonstrate the
          Slate as a true competitor for the iPad, then developers will flock to the
          new platform as quickly as they did to Android and the iPhone OS.

          Yes, it's the apps that count. Microsoft proved that they cannot
          generate enough interest for their 'tablet' versions of Windows. If HP
          wants to make their tablets a success, they have to use something
          other than Windows. If HP succeeds, Microsoft will be proven wrong in
          their antiquated view of how tablets should work.
          Vulpinemac
      • WebOS vs Android vs iPhone OSX

        This could be a major step towards making Microsoft irrelevant in the
        mobile market. By all reviews that I've read, Palm's WebOS is remarkably
        stable and easy to use, a definite step up from the old PalmOS. On the
        other hand, while Android is a very good OS for mobile devices, it's still
        a work in progress, as indicated by the reviews pointing out the need to
        reboot frequently, sometimes two or three times a day.

        Yes, Android 2.2 is an improvement, but as with almost any software, it
        seems that the 3.0 or higher is where it really begins to shine. Apple's
        iPhone OS is already approaching 4.0, and the Palm OS, as WebOS, is, I
        think, somewhere around 7.0 or higher. Palm's problem wasn't the OS,
        but coming into the smart phone market with too-quickly-built
        hardware too late to make an impact. At least for now, it appears to be
        a close race between Android and WebOS as to who will reach the
        market first to compete with the iPad. What does seem likely is that
        Windows will disappear entirely from the mobile market and be forced
        to work harder than ever to remain viable as a desktop OS.
        Vulpinemac
        • PalmOS and WebOS have no Connection.

          The PalmOS I have on my old Zire 71 and 72 Palms has nothing to do with WebOS. From what I have read (and with a little preliminary planning to try my hand at coding for it), WebOS has much more in common with Android and its Linux base. And that is encouraging in that an OS designed primarily for PIM (Personal Info Manager)functions, while good for that original purpose, is totally inadequate as a basis for all the multimedia, web, and communications functions that are more the focus of WebOS.

          I do hope it keeps some sort of good, and updated, PIM to make it suitable for the phones as PDA/phone converged devices, which has been my Holy Grail quest. I like my old WinMo 6.1 XV6800 well enough for that, but the screen and PPC functions are rather limiting now, and I almost got a Palm Pre Plus until I realized that the only text input method is via the crappy little keyboard (with a qwerty layout, to add injury to insult - why not "innovate" with Dvorak, so my thumbs don't work so hard learning something new??). I gotta have stylus/fingernail input (and not only fat-fingering/smudging fingertips), or it's no deal - a primary reason I returned my otherwise awesome Eris (along with hokey, immature tethering). No, I hardly ever use the physical keyboard on the XV6800.
          aroc
        • WebOS not a "progression" of PalmOS

          The PalmOS I have on my old Zire 71 and 72 Palms has nothing to do with WebOS. From what I have read (and with a little preliminary planning to try my hand at coding for it), WebOS has much more in common with Android and its Linux base. And that is encouraging in that an OS designed primarily for PIM (Personal Info Manager)functions, while good for that original purpose, is totally inadequate as a basis for all the multimedia, web, and communications functions that are more the focus of WebOS.

          I do hope it keeps some sort of good, and updated, PIM to make it suitable for the phones as PDA/phone converged devices, which has been my Holy Grail quest. I like my old WinMo 6.1 XV6800 well enough for that, but the screen and PPC functions are rather limiting now, and I almost got a Palm Pre Plus until I realized that the only text input method is via the crappy little keyboard (with a qwerty layout, to add injury to insult - why not "innovate" with Dvorak, so my thumbs don't work so hard learning something new??). I gotta have stylus/fingernail input (and not only fat-fingering/smudging fingertips), or it's no deal - a primary reason I returned my otherwise awesome Eris (along with hokey, immature tethering). No, I hardly ever use the physical keyboard on the XV6800.
          aroc
          • Sorry for the duplicate response (diff subjects)

            The first time I submitted, I got a 404 error, so figured it was lost, and thought up a new subject, and resubmitted (always try to copy long posts to clipboard before submitting in case "the web" eats my painstaking effor ;-)
            aroc
    • Room? Or a need?

      WebOS and Win7Mob are significantly smaller than a full version of
      Windows or any other desktop OS, so room isn't the question. However,
      the rapid adoption of the iPad, [i]even in the enterprise,[/i] proves that
      there is definitely a need.

      Microsoft has waited too long to do the right thing; HP is taking it out of
      Microsoft's hands and showing what they can do with a truly mobile OS.
      You can't sit on your laurels forever; someone is bound to come and take
      them away from you.
      Vulpinemac
  • OR...

    HP wants the phone tech, and will replace the palm "sucky" OS with Windows CE and their own interface. I doubt HP will want to own their own OS going forward.

    If HP decides to roll their own Phone OS I doubt it is successful.

    BTW: what ever happened to HP Invent, I thought that was a good marketing slogan, now it is HP... Do Amazing!?!? what does that even mean?
    TGGR
    • You must be joking

      Palm was always about the software, the hardware was never more than just good enough. The "dream PDA" used to be a non-Palm PDA running PalmOS.

      If HP keeps the meh hardware and replaces WebOS with the even more meh WinCE they will fail spectacularly.

      I'm still using a Palm TX, because I just can't find any calendar programs nearly as good as DateBk.
      Ronny102
  • For all you iPad OS haters

    What do you got to say now about the HP Slate/ Win 7 versus the Apple iPad OS? Looks like even HP knows Win 7 on the slate would be a horrible experience!!! Obviously b/c they have been testing it for several months now.... they realize a Win 7 OS is not the right strategy and that Apple nailed it!!!

    So now they copy again!!

    What a great day!!!
    beau27
    • yeah yeah.......

      I thought it was a phone and phone OS that they were buying. The mobile phone market dwarfs the tablet market so I doubt they bought it for tablet OS. Not sure where people get that idea just because the ipad is out and is selling well to the Apple faithful that everyone is clamouring for tablets now. Not really, no one I have talked to is hyped about getting a tablet computer.
      OhTheHumanity
  • That's a big assumption considering no one said

    why they bought Palm.

    Just like when Dell, HP, ect started offering Linux based systems to their lineup, you guys all claimed that they were "trying to get away from Redmond" yet in essence, they make their money from Windows machines, very little if anything really come from Linux based systems.

    Maybe HP is broadening their lineup: "Look we have tablets that run everything: Choose what works for you!"

    They can overlay the technology on top of Windows or any OS they wish.
    John Zern
    • Well, the handwriting is on the wall. Win7 / x86 on tablets and similar

      mobile devices is on the way out. Microsoft's
      best hope for a Win7 table is jumping ship. Also
      forget Windows Phone 7 running on HP phones.
      DonnieBoy
  • from one vaporware product to the next

    so according to the conference call the windows 7 slate is
    dead, but hp is about to announce their newest vaporware
    product, the slate webos.

    pundits and posters on zdnet and other IT doofus sites
    already love it and start to fantasize about the potential
    ipad killer delivered sometime next year.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-doesnt-have-to-
    worry-about-the-hp-slate-anymore-2010-4
    banned from zdnet again and again
  • Microsoft serves a different demographic than Apple

    Microsoft has attempted to compete with the more consumer friendly products that Apple develops, but the majority of products from Microsoft(its bread and butter) are geared toward productivity. Microsoft is just now starting to recognize that there is a market that they have poorly served with scaled down versions of its desktop products... basically attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole. The HP Slate is another consumer device that probably wouldn't have served Microsoft that well to begin with as its original O/S was the same recipe as used on desktops, but with a few additional features. Until Microsoft actually has a viable mobile solution comparable to the webOS and IPhone/IPod, it makes no difference if HP goes with a webOS or not. The new Windows Phone 7 platform appears to be the first real attempt by Microsoft to challenge the consumer mobile OS leader: Apple.
    youzer