HP and Linux' OEM problem

HP and Linux' OEM problem

Summary: In freeing itself from the tyranny of Windows, HP takes software and customer responsibility into its own hands. If HP succeeds Microsoft is in real trouble.


An Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), the brand name on your PC, wants the software it supports to deal with customers so it can deal with everything else.

By this I mean it wants software with scaled support, and with the marketing heft to help push units through stores. It wants software that will bring people into the stores and keep them off the manufacturer's back.

Linux has never been able to do this in consumer markets. Last year's CompuTex show in Taiwan showed why. The companies that offer Linux distros are too small to do this job on a global scale. So Taiwanese OEMs feel locked into their contracts with Microsoft, which despite its faults, its trips and dramas, can do all this.

What makes Google exciting to Taiwanese OEMs is that it can do all this. They have seen, with Android, how Google can move the merchandise, how it can keep customers from yelling at the hardware maker, and how its free price and easy customization can actually make it better than Windows.

But not everyone is thrilled. HP, for instance, doesn't want to swap the Windows handcuffs for Google ones. That's why it has acquired rights to two Linuxes -- Palm's webOS and Phoenix Technologies' HyperSpace.

(Hat tip to long-time friendly rival Steven Vaughan-Nichols for inspiring my thoughts this morning.)

The former is considered a big deal, $1.2 billion for a recognized consumer brand. The latter deal was barely noticed, but may prove more important.

webOS is expected to power HP's coming iPad replacement, and if the company could find a phone maker to give it a whirl so much the better. Windows failed HP on tablets -- HP made tablets for years before the iPad -- so the buzz is understandable.

But HP faces an uphill struggle here. This is a crowded market. There may not be an app for that. In a way HP has imported the Linux distro problem remarked upon earlier. It's responsible for total customer satisfaction. Its name is both on the box and inside.

The freedom from Windows, if it comes, will be hard-won.

In the long run HyperSpace may be a better deal.

That's because HyperSpace works in the BIOS. It starts to work as soon as you turn the device on, while Windows is still loading. This makes it a feature, one HP can promote even against other Windows PCs. And at $12 million the software was literally as cheap as chips.

Besides, HyperSpace offer HP room to grow in the Linux space. By organically adding capabilities, it can eventually have something that makes Windows redundant on low-power machines like netbooks. (You remember netbooks, don't you?) That niche can, in time, expand, if there is low-overhead instant-on software that lets you use one as fast as you can flip open a phone.

The problem, however, will remain in any case. In freeing itself from the tyranny of Windows, HP takes software and customer responsibility into its own hands. It's something no Linux distro owner has been able to do in a consumer market.

If HP succeeds Microsoft is in real trouble.

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Software

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  • Dana, you make the classic mistake of assuming that

    people [i]want[/i] Linux instead of Windows. Taiwanese OEMs don't feel "locked into" their contracts with Microsoft, they want to sell computers, and if people don't want Linux, and they have no MS contracts, they're ot of business, period.

    I have people asking me all the time the best way to upgrade to Windows 7, no one ever says "I wan't some other operating system", even though they know they exist.

    It's not the OEM making the deciusion here, its the consumers, and the consumers have spoken, and Linux isn't it.
    John Zern
    • Welcome to the Linux New World Order Coming

      @John Zern <br>That is because "the public" does not know that Linux is the coolest thing since sliced bread yet (with major emphasis on the word "yet") and all the FUD in the world is not going to change that!<br>Let the competition begin..........................<br>"Ohhhhhh I hate that wabbit" or Penguin as it is.

      His nick name ought to be TuxaClaus and he's coming to town!!!!!!!
      • RE: HP and Linux' OEM problem

        @hoctopus2 - that's because "the public" don't want or care about Linux. They want their PC's to run the software that they want to use and want an OS that they're (largely) familiar with.

        Most PC users are not like you or I, nor are they like most of the people who visit these discussion forums. They just want to get stuff done. They want to play their games, process their email, twitter, blog, update their Facebook, write letters, etc. They don't want to spend time working out how to do all these things all over again in a substantially different way.

        Linux is a great OS for many scenarios, but it is still a long way away from truly competing with Microsoft or Apple for desktop domination.
      • RE: HP and Linux' OEM problem

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    • And, you make the mistake of thinking that people WANT Windows instead of

      Linux. It is only that people want to run their applications (Win32), and are familiar with Windows. Android has shown that customers to not care about the Microsoft brand, only the applications. And, now Android has an application advantage over Windows Phone (or whatever the latest name).
    • RE: HP and Linux' OEM problem

      @John Zern
    • RE: HP and Linux' OEM problem

      @John Zern John are you a Taiwanese OEM with intimate knowledge of their business decisions, or are you stating an opinion?
  • HAHAHAHA. Theres a reason only linux fanbois want linux machines...

    Any OEM thinking google will help them with android support ought to take a long look at the HORRIBLE customer support satisfaction of those that bought a nexus one from google and google quickly exiting the support business for it.

    And anyone thinking of buying an HP preloaded with linux instead of windows better get used to HORRIBLE support from half way around the world from english as a second language speakers reading scripts.
    Johnny Vegas
    • 2nd language?

      It sounded like a third language to me last time i called tech support.

      I'd have a better chance of understanding someone speaking Klingon!
      John Zern
    • FUD FUD FUD All I hear is FUD

      Remember the IBM Linux Boy commercial- You know the boy every one loved or hated. Well we Linux fanboys love the FUD because of it we learn how to improve Linux. You see we are all the Linux Boy and we learn and learn and learn.......and we will improve and improve and improve....... and we will still be free. Look for TuxaClaus
    • Microsoft does NOT support OEM Windows, that is 100% up to the OEM.

      The only way to get MS to support Windows is buy it retail.
  • To an OEM, free means net without cost

    And a Windows license is currently net without cost to every OEM due to the shovelware on the box. OEMs don't care about software freedom; they care about the ready availability of relatively well-tested drivers in a timely fashion. They care about the $0.02 differences that add up over multi-million unit runs. Linux is a great system -- but it doesn't have that kind of support, and, most likely, won't get there until getting the last few cycles out of each component on the machine is no longer relevant. Until that time, the best drivers are going to remain unfree, and thus outside the Linux repositories.
    • Linux does not have that kind of support is temporary.

      @probabilist <br><br>Up till now Linux did not have enough capital for things like support. The free capitalist market was not designed to clog competitions money flow through monopoly. Well somebody from the Linux Community thought from outside of the box and figured out that the way to unclog this is with a plunger. <br>In other words "It is time to Linux advertise as an Open Source Community".
    • RE: HP and Linux' OEM problem

      @probabilist Agreed: +1!. Anyone with peripherals and hardware using drivers knows that story. Those that don't know it, get screwed; Linux is OK for some secretarial positions but that's about as far as it can go. Many programs won't port to Linux and they aren't in any hurry to do so, telling me at least "no market". Much as I've played and researched, it's not for me; and not in the foreseeable future: I just don't see any mass movement to actually make it useful to ME. I'm a consumer. I decide what products to purchase and how many and run the yearly budget. Lastly it's a huge investment to switch to a new operating system due to loss of productivity for x months, ongoing "fixes" for how many years, and probably the expense of hiring a guru or two, on top of training every person in the company to think in terms of komposer, gimp, et al names. Linux is for techies and windows is for "users".
      • RE: HP and Linux' OEM problem

        @twaynesdomain Hmm, not sure why but system indicates I was reported for spam, apparently because I edited the post to add that I wasn't a windows lover; Because I didn't care for Linux didn't mean I loved windows was added to the end.
  • It is fun to read these zdnet blogger articles

    Day after day, year after year, about linux, blah, blan.

    Windows failed HP on tablets ? HP made tablets for years before the iPad ?
    No, it is not Windows failed tablets. It is high price. The lowest price of HP tablest was about $999.
    • Part of the price problem is from Windows. With a bloated inefficient OS

      that only runs on x86, and not very well on Atom, that drives up prices, reduces battery live, makes them bulkier, etc.
  • mistake

  • RE: HP and Linux' OEM problem

    It could work if HP create its own linux or bsd or anything maximize everything , driver ,app ,support ,printer name it you have it .... they could provide a hell of a boost to Open source .

    Even more they could catch the boat that Oracle seem to have miss .... Because yes there the American market but there also the rest of the world market .... that where HP could score huge. Sadly Oracle seem to have miss that opportunity.

    And before some whiner start crying what does hp and oracle have in common .... Its simply 2 giant that could become game changer , one seem the have miss the boat ( oracle .... until further notice) and they other one HP is still looking where they are going too .....

    So go HP do you best
    • Actually, HP already has their own Linux. WebOS and the Quick Boot

      environment. WebOS, of course for cell phone and tablets, and maybe netbooks.