HP rocks Redmond with webOS PC play

Wintel giant makes like Apple


When the world's largest computer maker announced that it plans to equip laptops and desktops with its own operating system, you can be sure that the squeals emanating from Redmond's corner offices were not squeals of delight. And we're guessing the denizens of Cupertino's executive suites pricked up their ears as well.

On Wednesday morning, at a press event unveiling its new webOS-based TouchPad and a pair of webOS phones, HP said that it would bring its Palm-acquired operating system "to the HP devices with the broadest reach," meaning PCs. And Just to make sure that no one missed the implications of that blockbuster, Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP's personal systems group, stood in front of a slide that included images of laptop and desktop PCs with "HP webOS" emblazoned on their displays.

Bradley provided no details about HP's webOS-on-computers plans, such as what levels of devices are planned, but he did say that webOS PCs would appear "later this year."

If you flash back to just a decade ago, Windows was the undisputed ruler of the personal computer operating systems, with Apple's Mac OS X hanging on to only a tiny slice, and Linux the province of only the geekerati. But we're now poised on a new world order. By the end of the year, we should see those webOS for PCs, Apple's iOS/Mac OS X mashup Lion, and the first machines with Google's web-centric Chrome OS.

The operating-system wars are back – with a vengeance.

This time around, Lion and webOS – and, to a lesser extent, Chrome OS – have one distinct advantage over Windows: integration of mobile and desktop operating-system look, feel, and function.

We know nothing of Lion other than what Steve Jobs has told us – and he's told us precious little. He did say, however, that Lion would be a marriage of Mac OS X and iOS, with its user interface relying on a keyboard and an input device such as a multi-touch mouse or trackpad, rather than a multi-touch display à la iOS.

We know even less about HP's plans for desktop and laptop webOS – but it's dollars to donuts that the similarities between webOS in your pocket and webOS on your desk will be far greater than the similarities between Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 – similarities that don't exist in any meaningful way.

Lion/iOS and webOS have another advantage over Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7: unified code bases. Apple's two converging operating systems are joined at the hip, both built around the Unix-based Mac OS X. HP's webOS, although it will surely sprout different features for each platform, remains, at its core, the same open source webOS. All else being equal, one core code base – proprietary or open – is better than two.

Not that Windows will swiftly wither and die when faced with increasingly robust competition. Its massive installed base of both PCs and x86 apps provides powerful momentum. In addition, Microsoft has a staggeringly large enterprise presence. We don't see webOS servers in our crystal ball, and no doubt, HP will continue to offer Windows PCs as well as webOS models – at least for the time being.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has promised that Windows 8 will be ported to ARM processors – the mobile-device chip of choice. But recent rumors put Windows 8's retail availabilty as not being until January 2013. A lot can happen in two years – such as further erosion of Windows' market share thanks to both the mobile-device revolution and the combined share-eating attacks by Apple's iOS and Lion, HP's webOS, and Google's Android and Chrome OS.

It's also to be expected that as Microsoft feels more competition, execs in such places as Dell's Round Rock, Texas, headquarters and Acer's New Taipei City, Taiwan, command center may very well find themselves in better negotiating positions when dealing with Redmond.

But although the mood can't be all that perky among Ballmer & Co's brain trust this week, they are surely comforted by Microsoft's $41bn pile of cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments, and its market capitalization of around $235bn. The operating system wars may reigniting, but Redmond's arsenal is a formidable one.

Still, the surprise appearance of a new desktop and laptop operating system from such a high-profile company as HP can't be good news to Microsoft. The squeals, we're guessing, were very loud indeed. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Apple dev roundup: Weather data meets privacy, and other good stuff
    No AR/VR glasses but at least RoomPlan will let you make rapid 3D room maps

    WWDC Apple this week at its Worldwide Developer Conference delivered software development kits (SDKs) for beta versions of its iOS 16, iPadOS 16, macOS 13, tvOS 16, and watchOS 9 platforms.

    For developers sold on seeking permission from Apple to distribute their software and paying a portion of revenue for the privilege, it's a time to celebrate and harken to the message from the mothership.

    While the consumer-facing features in the company's various operating systems consist largely of incremental improvements like aesthetic and workflow enhancements, the developer APIs in the underlying code should prove more significant because they will allow programmers to build apps and functions that weren't previously possible. Many of the new capabilities are touched on in Apple's Platforms State of the Union presentation.

    Continue reading
  • Workers win vote to form first-ever US Apple Store union
    Results set to be ratified by labor board by end of the week

    Workers at an Apple Store in Towson, Maryland have voted to form a union, making them the first of the iGiant's retail staff to do so in the United States.

    Out of 110 eligible voters, 65 employees voted in support of unionization versus 33 who voted against it. The organizing committee, known as the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE), has now filed to certify the results with America's National Labor Relations Board. Members joining this first-ever US Apple Store union will be represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

    "I applaud the courage displayed by CORE members at the Apple store in Towson for achieving this historic victory," IAM's international president Robert Martinez Jr said in a statement on Saturday. "They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election."

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft pledges neutrality on unions for Activision staff
    Now can we just buy them, please?

    Microsoft isn't wasting time trying to put Activision Blizzard's problems in the rearview mirror, announcing a labor neutrality agreement with the game maker's recently-formed union.

    Microsoft will be grappling with plenty of issues at Activision, including unfair labor lawsuits, sexual harassment allegations and toxic workplace claims. Activision subsidiary Raven Software, developers on the popular Call of Duty game series, recently voted to organize a union, which Activision entered into negotiations with only a few days ago.

    Microsoft and the Communication Workers of America (CWA), which represents Raven Software employees, issued a joint statement saying that the agreement is a ground-breaking one that "will benefit Microsoft and its employees, and create opportunities for innovation in the gaming sector." 

    Continue reading
  • We sat through Apple's product launch disguised as a dev event so you don't have to
    M2 chip teased plus MacBooks, iOS 16, macOS 13, watchOS 9 and more

    WWDC Apple opened its 33rd annual Worldwide Developer Conference on Monday with a preview of upcoming hardware and planned changes in its mobile, desktop, and wrist accessory operating systems.

    The confab consists primarily of streamed video, as it did in 2020 and 2021, though there is a limited in-person component for the favored few. Apart from the preview of Apple's homegrown Arm-compatible M2 chip – coming next month in a redesigned MacBook Air and 13" MacBook Pro – there was not much meaningful innovation. The M2 Air has a full-size touch ID button, apparently.

    Apple's software-oriented enhancements consist mainly of worthy but not particularly thrilling interface and workflow improvements, alongside a handful of useful APIs and personalization capabilities. Company video performers made no mention of Apple's anticipated AR/VR headset.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022