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.