HP: The Linux Desktop Company

HP: The Linux Desktop Company

Summary: For years, HP has had a love/hate relationship with desktop Linux. Now, it will be putting its webOS Linux variant on all of its PCs.

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Well, I didn't see this coming. HP CEO Leo Apotheker, according to Bloomberg/Newsweek said that "every one of the PCs shipped by HP will include the ability to run WebOS in addition to Microsoft Corp.'s Windows." I knew HP was serious about webOS, its Linux-based tablet/smartphone operating system. I didn't know that HP was this serious.

For years, with the exception of Dell, most major PC vendors have been very reluctant to offer desktop Linux. This has been because they were afraid of upsetting the 800-pound gorilla of desktop operating systems: Microsoft.

The sales were there. I've been told by sources both at Dell and Canonical that pre-installed Ubuntu Linux PC sales alone have been in the millions. That may not be a lot compared to Windows, but given how hard most PC companies have made it to even shop for Linux-powered PCs, I think it's darn impressive.

HP was one of the worse that way. HP was the last of the major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to support desktop Linux. Even after HP finally joined the club, the company made it almost impossible to buy its SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) computers. Paradoxically, HP has always done an outstanding job of selling and supporting Linux servers.

HP's plan seems to be to use webOS on all of HP's PC and laptop lines as an embedded alternative operating system to Windows. This isn't a new idea. Splashtop, which was recently made available as an installable Linux desktop for Windows user, has been doing this for years. Today, under a variety of names, you'll find Splashtop Linux on laptops from Acer, Dell, and Lenovo and many other brands. Indeed, HP was one of the first to use Splashtop as embedded, instant-on Linux back in 2009.

Regardless of the PC's maker the idea is always the same: Give Windows users a really fast-to-boot and safe operating system that they can use for Web browsing. In part, that's what HP will be doing with webOS. It's more than that though. HP really wants webOS to be more than just an also-ran in the new tablet operating system world. Indeed, with this move HP has made it clear that wants to be a desktop operating system power as well.

If I were Microsoft I'd be worried. Yes, HP is only offering webOS as a built-in alternative to Windows. But, what if it turns out that users don't just like it, but really like it? What if HP discovers after a year that its users prefer webOS' unified tablet and desktop look and feel over Windows? Would HP stop paying for those expensive Windows 7 licenses and start releasing combination tablet/laptops like Lenovo's ThinkPad X220 powered only by webOS?

Of course, HP would! They'd be fools not to. Without the Windows tax, HP could either undercut the prices of their competition, make more profits on PCs and laptops' notoriously thin-margins, or, in the best of both worlds, do both. Thanks to the sudden rise of tablets, I think HP has finally gotten over their fear of Microsoft and is moving to their own take on the Linux desktop as fast as they can.

Mind you, HP isn't calling webOS a Linux desktop, anymore than Android vendors are admitting that their smartphones are running Linux. Linux has a reputation for being hard to use and suitable only for techies. But, webOS and Android? They're easy! So it is that Linux is stealthily making its way onto our tablets, smartphones, and now thanks to HP, entire PC and laptop lines.

Topics: Hardware, Tablets, Software, Operating Systems, Open Source, Mobility, Linux, Laptops, Hewlett-Packard, Windows

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  • RE: HP: The Linux Desktop Company

    Users are going to use whatever is the default, and complain about anything that's different from what they're used to.
    Real World
    • RE: HP: The Linux Desktop Company

      @Real World, agree, google poured lots of cash is a black hole called android, i think, a dead end project. Nobody likes new stuff.
      d.marcu
      • And how many projuect did Google shut down?

        @d.marcu
        You can't base everything off of Android. A lot of what they did has been discontinued.
        Will Farrell
      • RE: HP: The Linux Desktop Company

        @d.marcu black hole and dead end project are hardly what come to mind when reading market share reports. - http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2011/01/android-beats-nokia-apple-rim-in-2010-but-firm-warns-about-2011.ars
        yondering
      • RE: HP: The Linux Desktop Company

        @d.marcu You must be an idiot. Black Hole? Try reading something besides your Windows 7 Help files. Android is now leading all cell phone operating systems in sales, yes including Blackberry who used to be number one.
        teacher006
      • RE: HP: The Linux Desktop Company

        @yondering, teacher006,LOL, open a dictionary and look for SARCASM
        d.marcu
      • RE: HP: The Linux Desktop Company

        @d.marcu Dead end? Android now has a larger market share than iOS. How is that dead?
        garethmcc
      • RE: HP: The Linux Desktop Company

        @d.marcu

        People ... relax ... he was being sarcastic.
        jscott69
      • RE: HP: The Linux Desktop Company

        @d.marcu Sarcasm. But I don't think you can compare the desktop to the phone. There seems to be a much different mindset when it comes to what users expect from their phone vs. what they expect from their desktop. Almost all desktop users, 10 times out of 10, are going to boot into Windows. Not WebOS. Because Windows is what they know and are comfortable with.
        pantheraleo
      • RE: HP: The Linux Desktop Company

        @d.marcu
        I disagree with you, Android is a great platform. For starters it is not tied to Apple, that's 5 points in my scale. But beyond that, Android is an excellent OS, I use it, and I had experience with iPhones and they are very similar. But Android is more versatile in terms of applications.
        iExist
      • RE: HP: The Linux Desktop Company

        @d.marcu android will outlast most of the competitors and will be the only real competition for iOS from Apple

        posted via <a href="http://www.android-tablet.org/tag/android-tablet/">Xoom Motorla Tablet PC</a>
        Jeffrey1980
    • RE: HP: The Linux Desktop Company

      @Real World : just as users used the default PCDOS system on their IBM PCs&mdash;back on the 80's&mdash;, but started adding Microsoft Windows on a side.

      Once Windows was stable enough, they dumped PCDOS and were using Windows exclusive apps.

      Of course, that was a long time ago, and people don't tend to remember things too far back.
      cosuna
      • RE: HP: The Linux Desktop Company

        @cosuna: I remember PCDOS and DRDOS strange how Windows looked like the DRDOS operating system, am I the only 64 year old user who uses both windows and Linux?. there again I also remember Unix and Cobol systems. A change has been needed for a long time and now is that time. TOF
        keith.hirons1@...
      • Well, Dumped DOS Apps Anyway

        @cosuna
        Yes, they dumped DOS apps for Windows Apps. Remember, though, that DOS was just a program that ran on Windows at the time. They didn't ostensibly dump DOS until they went from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, and they didn't really dump DOS until they went from Windows 98 to Windows XP.

        Of course, while Windows 3.1 was out Microsoft was making efforts to leverage Windows 3.1 to be sure that people were running MS-DOS instead of PC DOS or DR-DOS. Efforts like having Windows throw a false General Protection Fault error after doing a DOS version check and finding that it wasn't MS-DOS that it was started in.
        CFWhitman
      • RE: HP: The Linux Desktop Company

        @cosuna I dont see Windows going away.
        Jimster480
      • RE: HP: The Linux Desktop Company

        @cosuna
        "Of course, that was a long time ago, and people don't tend to remember things too far back."

        I do. In fact, I'm still running DOS programs on some Windows 98SE machines, and more recently have begun running those same DOS programs in DOSBOX on an Ubuntu Linux system. Why rewrite perfectly good programs if they still do the job?
        phil8192
      • RE: HP: The Linux Desktop Company

        @CFWhitman
        Uh, DOS was not a program running on Windows, it was the exact opposite - and in fact while with Win 3.x this was obvious to anyone (you booted to DOS and typed "Win") this was still true, even if hidden, with Win 95 through 98 up to ME which still ran on top of MS-DOS.
        robsku
    • Sure, they've never adapted to different versions of windows either;-)

      Change is the one constant, in IT more than most industries.

      User adapt, as they have with changes to windows. The network effect for windows was the WIN32 API, but today with the transition to web based apps the need is diminishing (hence explosion is alternatives).

      All bad news for MS these days:-)
      Richard Flude
      • Maybe in your world

        @Richard Flude
        where the only MS news allowed is bad news.
        John Zern
    • It's not a tax its a cost

      SJVN: There's no such thing as a windows tax, it's a cost. And BTW, do you think WebOS will just work without any additional costs/efforts on HP's part?

      Interesting though that they would rather develop their own OS, rather than use Ubuntu, or any of the other distros!
      otaddy