back to article HP rocks Redmond with webOS PC play

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 …


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  1. Bilgepipe


    Microsoft is facing some new and very agile competitors. Their response will be interesting; so far it's been the same as usual - trying to cram full-fat bloaty Windows on as many devices as possible, whether it works on them or not.

    Who'd have predicated all this ten years ago?

    1. Anonymous Coward


      You could look at the ratio of arrogance/size of market against imminent decline. Look at IBM for one. General Motors for another. Don't get me wrong, they are still big companies but there are plenty examples of companies hitting a certain size and influence seeming to think that their way is right, and failing to listen to or watch the clients/public. Google will be interesting a decade from now....I think that Schmidt was an example of that hyper-business were right to remove/ask him to leave/[insert your politically correct word of choice here] from his position. Also google are insinuating themselves into the internet web from end to end.

      I wonder...But apple will also tilt over as it stands, short of releasing OS X into the wild. The level of control they are exhibiting is reminiscent of a few failures and has a way of biting companies on the arse. When SJ is no longer at the helm, you will see a similar fall like M$ and Gates leaving. Mainly because the other corporate beings start the usual attempt at their version of what they think the business should be, and the personalities are such that they enter a feedback loop of self referential support of Wiki like proportions and the long slow death of the behemoth begins.

      IMHO. :)

    2. K. Adams

      I did, actually... :-)

      To wit:

      -- -- "Monopoly is Moot: All You Really Need is Sneaky Code"

      -- --

      I wrote the piece sometime in the year 2000. When revamped the website in 2006-2007, the original attribution of authorship (me) in the post's header was lost, but scroll down to post #2, you can see the reference to the nickname I used a decade ago, and still use now on ElReg...

      Gawd, that was a fun time: The underlying architecture of the Internet had solidified by then, with commercial development in full-swing, and web browsers with (reasonably) well-developed JavaScript/JScript capabilities taking hold. HTML 4.01 had been recently released, but XMLHttpRequest -- as we know it today -- had not yet made its appearance. (Prototypical examples of the technology existed, but most people still associated the word "AJAX" with that "powdered soap Grandma uses in the kitchen.") Most server-side web scripting was accomplished with ASP.Net, JSP, Perl, or PHP4. Ruby was on its way up, but wasn't yet riding on Rails. And the only real Y2K "bug" of any note was Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me)...

      Ah, nostalgia!

  2. Chris Bidmead

    Nice analysis...

    ...except that the physics is wrong. Microsoft's "massive installed base" isn't "momentum". It's "inertia".



    1. Neil Lewis

      Momentum? Inertia?

      Two consequences of the same law of physics. And momentum in the 'wrong' direction is probably more damaging in this instance than just being inclined to stay at rest.

      1. GreenOgre

        Physical Pedantry

        Momentum in the wrong direction _IS_ inertia.

        A body at rest is just one that is not moving in the direction or speed we would like it to.

  3. Robert E A Harvey


    I have been depressively predicting WebOs would be too little, too late. I have been excited by this announcement. if HP can pull it off, I'll be delighted. And, am already thinking of splashing out on the pad and the phone. Bring on the PC!

    Anything that chips away at M$ smugness is good, too.

  4. KiwiAndy

    Interesting times...

    ...but whither the productivity apps for the new OS? Maybe I'm deluded but I don't see MS re-writing Office for webOS. Nor Adobe their suites. Perhaps HP see their future in social media, entertainment and such.

    However it plays out, good to see the PC incumbents MS and to a lesser extent Apple getting a hurry-up. Welcome to the game HP and Google.

    And good luck.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    So I was sitting here reading this and the thought occurred to me that from an IT professional angle this isnt such a great thing playing out on the desktop.

    Right now, we, as a community really have to deal with 3 OSes:

    Windows (say 90-95% of desktop/ anywhere from 10-90% of servers depending)

    MacOS (lets face it - about 5-10% of our desktop community give or take unless you are a big Mac shop)

    Linux/Unix (say 1-5% of desktop in a large corp, maybe more in an adventurous smaller company, 10-90% of your server install)

    So realistically, and not trying to put anyone down, and yes its with a big wide brush, you end up with your desktop support team being primarily windows with some MacOS skills, and your server team being a Win/Linux (Winux?) type of person. And the network guys over in the corner being grumpy old sods who dont agree with anything :)

    So how does all this play into the support model? BES was bad enough. iPhone and Android at least both play into the same ActiveSync/IMAP/POP space. Palms - I mean WebOS? And if this spreads to the table/desktop fields then what?

    One of the beautiful things about the whole Winux world is that the systems do, to some degree, play nicely with each other. Common file formats, mostly common applications give or take IIS/Apache and Exchange. One of the reasons I always thought MacOS failed in the server space was because of all the extensions they introduced (the .crap files littered everywhere) and the fact that they did have to think different to do the same things. So moving back to the desktop, OpenOffice for example plays well on both and files cascade around. Gimp/Photoshop play well together. Etc. Etc. But where does a more closed eco system like WebOS come in?

    I cant see it becoming widely adopted, and on the corporate front, I cant see it becoming widely supported. But then maybe I'm becoming a crusty old geek these days.

  6. Lars Silver badge

    Linux on the desktop

    Only when you change the name then.

  7. Ensate

    competition is good but....

    Is it just me, but the competition seems to be sat squarely in the home user and non business user. While this is an important area. As an IT manager, despite wanting to find decent alternatives to Microsofts OS tax, I find myself returning to it time and again when my professional name is on the line.

    Don't get me wrong here. I love linux, and use it wherever possible. IOs, Android, and WebOS are very goof mobile OS's. However, Linux still hasn't got anything to match the slickness and manageability of Active Directory, and non of the new mobile OSs truly have the enterprise ready features I need in my work place.

    The same seems to be equally true in other areas such as web browsers. I despise IE, yet a move to firefox and chrome is just a none starter due to the extremely poor manageability tools.

    If hp, really want to take over the world, they need to give WEBos some real enterprise credentials to match its great usability.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    did HP just do something disruptive and controversial?

    not quite back to the glory days but gone on you.

    revelling in some low-key schaudenfreude, swivel on that monkey-boy.

    off-topic: any chance elreg could not use "mashup" except in an ironic or sarcastic finger-pointing way? thx.

  9. something

    Driver issues

    Although I think that having multiple operating systems available is a good thing, there are a few things that bother me. The market is following Apple's example and thus we are moving to closer and closer systems. Since there is no software compatibility between platforms means that once we make a choice we are locked. And even if software can be acquired for free (or "free") the same is not going to be true for hardware. Do we really expect hardware manufacturers to support so many different OSes? Unless there is some kind of standard (e.g. write a single driver for all Linux, Unix, OS X, Android, Meego, etc etc variants) and offer a single support package for all those we'll be simply at the mercy of Apple, HP, Google and whoever else.

    1. Neil Lewis

      Not a problem if manufacturers are open, too

      You're assuming that drivers have to be written by hardware manufacturers. One of the advantages free software such as Linux has is that drivers can be written by anyone, so long as the hardware specs are published. That's why Linux currently supports more hardware than any other OS. Contrary to your suggestion that the market is becoming more closed, most of the larger hardware makers seem to be building more active working relationships with those writing free drivers - see the changes in stance by AMD, Intel and even nVidia in the past year or two. It's quite often the case now that new hardware is supported on free software first, before closed systems.

      There's also the matter of the VM nature of some of those new OSs.

    2. Ocular Sinister

      Cross platform?

      "Linux, Unix, OS X, Android, Meego, etc etc variants)"

      So that would be Linux, BSD, BSD, Linux, Linux and Linux then...

      More seriously, you could use a higher level language (.Net, Java,...) or a cross platform toolkit (Qt, GTK, ...). That later would require a re-compile, and would require some discipline regarding cross platform support but that's probably a good thing.

      1. Paul 172

        Unix != BSD

        please see;


      2. bubba-bear

        System V

        That could be Linux, System V, BSD, Linux, Linux ...

    3. Giles Jones Gold badge

      WebOS is Linux based

      WebOS is Linux based. It is an OS running the Linux kernel, but with some other unspecified system components.

      If Linux works on your hardware then WebOS stands a good chance.

    4. Robert E A Harvey

      And the network guys over in the corner being grumpy old sods who dont agree with anything

      Snore, snthak. what? What? eh?

      Oh Sorry, did you want something important?

      No, OK then.

      I'll get back to, err, ...

    5. John Sanders

      about AD

      Does Samba 4 ring a bell?

      1. Ensate

        not relevent... yet

        It does ring a bell, and I have tested it. however:

        1) Its not finished yet, and as such isn't ready for a production environment.

        2) Although I am fine with setting up a samba server (and have done it on may occasions), every other member of my staff is not. Its been surprisingly difficult to get competent Linux staff who are wiling to work in a mixed windows / Linux / Mac environment. this means there are massive training issues, and also business continuity issues should I move on.

        3) Samba 4 doesn't support all the higher enterprise functions of AD... yet.

        4) If your in an enterprise with multiple sites/departments. The chances are you will have windows server boxes already out there. At which point, the licensing issue is still there, even if you replace some of them with samba.

        5) As much as I respect samba for its performance and rock solid abilities. Its just no where near as slick, easy to use, easy to setup, and easy to manage.

        believe me, I am watching samba 4 with deep interest and can only hope it turns out as well as I am sure many of us want it to.

    6. GreenOgre

      Get the blinkers off, KiwiAndy!

      There are already several F/OSS office apps/suites available that are written to be portable across architecture and OS. Who would bother with an immobile lump like MS Office? (which must be going to ARM at least.)

      1. KiwiAndy

        Clam down GreenOgre

        "Who would bother with an immobile lump like MS Office?"

        Any business, from sole trader to the enterprise, who rely on being able to consistently interchange MS Office documents with their business partners? And since I have experimented with F/OSS and found it to be unreliable in document translation, I am compelled to meet the standards that my clients and suppliers follow - MS Office. Get back to me when that lack of OSS reliability has been overcome.

        And good luck finding any F/OSS alternative to Adobe's suites. They are the graphics industry standard and not having them is financial suicide.

        If MS compiles their code-base to run Windows on ARM, then good on them. That doesn't imply in any way that they'll rewrite their Office suite for webOS though. I think you're a little confused...

        1. DRendar

          The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

          "And since I have experimented with F/OSS and found it to be unreliable in document translation, I am compelled to meet the standards that my clients and suppliers follow - MS Office. Get back to me when that lack of OSS reliability has been overcome."

          False - it is M$ who don't even follow their OWN standards, it is this that causes the (very rare) rendering anomalies. FOSS productivity packages in my experience are actually far more reliable, and enjoyable to use than Redmond's abortions. Particularly since that fucking awful ribbon that appeared in Office 2007

          Besides - you cannot even guarantee that an M$ Office doc will render the same on two WinTel machines, especially if using different versions.

          This is why PDF was developed, to ensure that any document you want to send electronically gets rendered exactly as the author intended. And Open/Libre etc Office have the export to PDF function built in to the file menu, something that you either have to pay for or hack into M$Office by way of a PDF printer.

          As for the adobe packages, there are alternatives, but if you're suffering from vendor Lock-in that badly, just use Wine.

    7. Anonymous Coward

      Set aside the CoolAde for once...

      If you're stuck with AD (slick???), then stick with it. Just replace everything else and leave that high-price LDAP server in place.

      for example: Zimbra does everything your company and users ACTUALLY need on a tenth of the hardware and (more importantly) support requirements of Exchange.

      Admittedly, the alternatives won't supply an excuse to increase the headcount, grow your budget and expand your little IT Empire. Back to work, Ghengis!

  10. DrXym Silver badge

    So many companies have resources to write apps for all these platforms?

    There are at least 7 mobile / tablet operating systems that could be considered viable at present. In general order of consumer / dev interest you could rank them like this:

    iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, Blackberry, Symbian, webOS, Meego.

    Therefore I think webOS will have it's work seriously cut out for it. There simply won't be the resources to develop apps for it and without the apps there won't be users. It's a vicious cycle.

    I wonder if HP & Nokia shouldn't merge or enter a strategic partnership. Nokia is in serious trouble with its smart phone strategy and it might make sense to licence webOS and sunset Symbian and MeeGo assuming HP would let them.

  11. llewton


    So, Apple OS's are Unix-based. What is WebOS? Is it an independently developed system, or is it based on something else too? It's unclear from the story.

    1. Chemist

      What is WebOS?


    2. magnetik


      "What is WebOS? Is it an independently developed system, or is it based on something else too?"

      Based on Linux, see:

    3. Tim Parker


      In a nut-shell - webOS is a proprietary stack/UI running on top of a Linux kernel with a WebKit based rendering engine... rather nice looking too IMO. Interesting times...

      1. Geoff Mackenzie

        You just answered my question

        Maybe I misread the article, but I got the sense that webOS was open source from a slipshod read, and was hunting around online to see if I could confirm this. It seems it's not really - the only parts that are open are the chunks that have to be for legal reasons. I still like the sound of this, but I'd be a lot more excited if HP would release the rest of it under the GPL as well.

        As it is I'll keep my eyes peeled and think about running it if they're selling it to people who don't want an HP PC if they don't want too much for it. Sounds like it could be entertaining to play with - and maybe even useful here and there - although to be honest I don't like the idea of using web technologies to build local applications, seems like some odd hoop jumping to me. Ready to be proved wrong but I always thought AJAX was a slightly itchy workaround, rarely preferable to just writing a thick client if you need those sorts of user interface features.

        1. Lars Silver badge

          kernel space and user space

          If you want to hide and keep your stuff proprietary the do it in the user space.

          Kernel space is the part that stays GPL and open.

          Always your choice. I suppose lots of WebOS is user space.

    4. DrXym Silver badge


      And today Nokia announces a partnership with Microsoft. I guess I was correct in predicting Nokia's predicament but not who they jumped into bed with.

  12. bigiain

    What about Dalvik

    seems to me this makes the recent Reg article on the Dalvik VM being made available on non android platforms very interesting: -

    If HP get this running under WebOS, they've just made it easy for developers to support the platform at the same time as they cover all the other non Apple operating systems (I can't see Apple allowing Dalvik anywhere near their products)

    Dalvik VM plus all these new operating systems capable of running the same apps could really blow the market apart and make your OS choice dependant purely on the hardware/OS and not the apps available for it.

  13. jonathanb Silver badge

    Will this work?

    I can see this being about as good as that Android netbook from Toshiba that El Reg slated towards the end of last year. Possibly worse if it runs on Intel rather than ARM.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      In theory HP will have full control over both the hardware and software, like with Apple. That seems to work ok. Toshiba tried to tack someone else's unsuitable OS onto a netbook.

  14. llewton

    webos origins

    Thanks all. I kinda knew that :) Being a journalist myself my comment and question was to highlight what I see as poor reporting here. It's like those articles going on about 90 percent of PCs being infected with viruses, without ever mentioning what OS those PCs are running.

    Here, if they bothered to says that Apple's stuff is Unix-based (BSD) then surely they could have said that the HP thing was basically Linux.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Productivity Apps?

    More and more stuff is in the cloud/browser based and I'm seeing increasing number of user interfaces to business systems being in the browser rather than app installs.

    Google Apps is viable for small businesses. With a good webkit browser and a fast connection compatibility becomes less of an issue.

    "It ships with a full version of QuickOffice, which lets you view and edit Microsoft Word and Excel documents, but it's also designed to work with Google's online word processor and spreadsheet app, Google Docs"

  16. Herby Silver badge

    Soon computer vendors...

    won't need to buy licenses for 100% of their machines for Windows (needed or not!). When THAT happens, sell your Microsoft stock, its going downhill.

    Currently the 100% price is cheaper for a hardware vendor, but as they migrate to other platforms, it won't be, so we then will have "choice" (what a concept!).

    Not soon enough!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Other key issue here

    Is office apps. Unfotunately MS office /exchange is by far the best Productivity suite out there. OO is functional and useable but is too clunky and unpolished for the majority of users. Google docs is similarly good/functional, but you have security/privacy issues plus if your internet connection goes down, you're screwed. Plus there's the age old format problems.

    1. danny_0x98

      That world is changing

      I actually do prefer OpenOffice/LibreOffice to Office, but I recognize that Office holds unassailable practical advantages. Microsoft solved what was The Big Problem, and no alternative application has a chance, unless it provides Word/Excel file format compatibility.

      I'm independent contracting to small businesses and the problem I see is that remote communications are becoming more vital and out there they don't have the resources or inclination to open up a spreadsheet or document.

      Here come the long-articulated architectures of thin client and client/server, which we now call mobile and cloud, to answer the new Big Problem.

      So, back at the back office, does IT hold with the desktop apps and adapt them to consume the remote information being gathered and organized by the servers or does IT deploy mobile apps to the desktop and its input devices? Are the office suites, then, solely useful for legacy compatibility purposes and the occasional "Happy Birthday" banner in Comic Sans?

      I don't know.

      I'm certain that the beancounters will notice that mobile apps are a lot cheaper, the good ones have a smaller gap between function available and function utilized, and the servers have already been bought.

  18. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Nokia missed opportunity

    Can't help thinking that Nokia missed the boat by not acquiring Palm/WebOS to replace the rapidly sinking Symbian. Had a go on a Pre and loved it, just put off by the lack of apps which may change in the future.

    1. swareInTheNews

      But maybe Elop's "ecosystem" involves HP?

      Reading through the article and comments, I couldn't help reflecting on Elop's comments about building with a new partner and ecosystem, and how Symbian doesn't do it for Nokia any longer (at the high end anyway). The timing of his announcements and this presentation/announcement from HP seems suspicious - maybe Nokia is teaming with HP to bring webOS to their high-end smartphones thereby building into what could well be a burgeoning ecosystem and not at all coincidentally giving HP an immediate leg-up in the mobile handset stakes, where they have a clear lack of any modern offering, especially considering Nokia's undoubted excellence in hardware.

      Probably HP are the better organisation to actually succeed with pushing webOS to the wider marketplace than Nokia, simply because of their existing market penetration, scale and breadth of offering, albeit not in mobile. Teaming with Nokia and using a common OS that is highly web-enabled at the outset, allowing a fully integrated offering from smartphone through to desktop would be a clever move for both companies. IMHO.

      And if that is the case, we may well be hearing an early echo of the death knell for WP7.

      This makes the next Nokia announcements (11 Feb) even more interesting to anticipate...

      1. swareInTheNews

        So M$ wins...

        Well, it was a good idea to team with HP IMHO but now the announcement has come and gone it's clear that Elop was too much a M$ man - forever in Ballmer's pocket. A great shame; ultimately will do Nokia a disservice I believe.

  20. Wibble

    Wonderful news - at last!

    At last we're getting to the point where the OS is irrelevant to 'normal' users. There's no need for the bloated full-size OS's for *most* people. Sure, if you're a 'power user' you'll need a full-function OS, but for the majority of people who do a bit of browsing, emailing, light duty apps, this'll do nicely.

    It's so daft that MS have neglected this. With their lead in Wince, they could have something here. But no, they've done their usual stunt of ignoring it and hoping it'll go away to further the life of full-fat windows.

    Apple needn't be too complacent here either. Although it's probably true that most Mac users are in the power-user category.

    Good on HP.

  21. spegru
    Thumb Up

    Productivity apps

    the key to support and dev costs is open standards that everyone can work to.

    Been that way in networks fora long time. Pretty much there with browsers, and (I predict) office apps about to go the same way!

    What OS? Irrelevant!

    Time to dump MS stock methinks

  22. Dan Wilkinson

    Home users are the market

    Not all computer users are business users. But I'd wager that most if not all users of computers at work also use them at home. Consumer is the growth market. MS cannot rely on business inertia forever. I wish them luck with it, if nothing else fast mobile OS like iOS/Android and Webos would make beautiful "fast boot" environments on standard PCs, by way of gentle introduction and not freaking users out with change.

  23. Wang N Staines


    The guys with the money are using Excel.

  24. Harlan Grove

    no more synergy

    MSFT Office used to sell Windows, at least in the workplace. No longer. MSFT tried to make IIS/IE the only practical web server/browser combo, but they failed. Now that they have to live with common web standards, IE isn't necessary either. If all an OS really needs to run is a browser, and any of the top 5 browsers would do, the OS has become a commodity. MSFT is likely to find it difficult to adjust to commodity pricing for Windows.

    Anyone else think this is HP's not-too-subtle way of asking MSFT just how much of a reduction can MSFT would give on Windows OEM license costs?

  25. Nathan 6

    Another DOA tablet

    Can't see this taking off. There isn't enough developer interest. This guys should have seriously went with a Java API along side what ever this is programmed with (Html/css/Javascript , fuck since when did programmers starting thinking it was a good idea to do native apps with those technology)? Having a Java API is what made Andriod a success with developers. Don't believe me, just look at the other non iOS operating system out there, that don't have a Java API and see the level of developer interest.

    RIM is a good example of this. In their BB devices, the API is Java based, in there tablet it's not. And what has happened with that device? Simply, they now have to try to bring over the Andriod Java API in desperation. One wonders why they just didn't recognize this in the first place and ported the BB Java API over to the device. Now that would have been the smart thing to do. However, I guess this is what happens when Marketing folks blinded by web 2.0 talk end up making software decisions. You don't ever here apple talking about web 2.0 is the way to go with iOS.

  26. Melanie Winiger

    Thought provoking article

    One to Bookmark and read again in a few years.

    On whatever device and Operating System I happen to be using by then :-)

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