Desktop PCs stopped being the hub of much innovation over the past several years. Notable improvements include the addition of Windows 7-based models, sleeker designs, speed improvements and lower prices, but that's been about it. PCs, including notebooks, have become commodity items on the CIO's shopping list.
But computer giant HP, a leading provider of PCs and notebooks, plans to set its models apart next year by adding webOS, the operating system software the company now owns thanks to its blockbuster $1.2 billion purchase of Palm last year. HP's CEO Leo Apotheker told Bloomberg today that starting next year, all of the PCs HP ships will include the ability to run webOS in addition to Microsoft's Windows.
"You create a massive platform," Apotheker told Bloomberg.
The move comes as HP looks to reinvigorate Palm, which has historically been focused on smartphones. Last month HP previewed tablet devices designed to compete with Apple's iPad. The first Palm tablets running webOS aren't due out till later this summer.
Analyst Roger Kay said he doesn't expect the webOS option to mean much to PC users anytime soon. "It's probably worth more as a marketing statement than as a real capability until the ecosystem is a lot more built out," Kay, the principal analyst and president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, told InternetNews.com in an email.
"Leo wants to entice the developers. If they come, he's saying, so will the consumers. It's free for HP to throw it on the box," Kay added. "But developers won't come unless they see a market. If the consumers have the platforms, theoretically the seats are there."
HP continues to be a key Microsoft partner, but has also made it clear that it has high hopes and investing considerable developer and marketing resources into webOS.
Apotheker is slated to speak at an HP Summit media event next week in San Francisco where he's expected to talk in detail for the first time about his overall strategy and plans for HP. After spending more than 20 years at enterprise software giant SAP, where he rose to become CEO, Apotheker replaced Mark Hurd as HP's CEO last year. Hurd, who was forced out of HP after an expense report controversy, joined Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) as a co-President.
Ironically, just as rival Oracle has moved into hardware following its acquisition of Sun Microsystems, HP under Apotheker is expected to place much more emphasis on its software business than it has traditionally. "HP has lost its soul, Apotheker told Bloomberg.
He also said HP is on the lookout to buy more companies with software expertise and that will help HP beef up its security portfolio and equip customers with better tools to analyze large amounts of data. "I happen to know something about software," said Apotheker.