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HP developing own home OS to avoid Windows?

updated 11:15 am EDT, Fri September 12, 2008

HP Developing Own OS

HP is exploring development of its own Linux variant designed just for the home, according to insiders speaking with BusinessWeek. The software would be simpler than most Linux distributions and would be specifically designed to avoid a dependence on Microsoft's Windows operating systems on consumer systems, which have been forced to move to Vista despite a poor reaction to the platform. Details of the operating system are otherwise unknown.

The project is described as private and hasn't been officially scheduled; nonetheless, the project is said to have been deliberately formed as a "Skunk Works" project that maintains a low profile. The company's CTO for its PC group, Phil McKinney, acknowledges that staffers have discussed the possibility but officially maintains that the company prefers to customize Windows apps rather than create its own platform.

A large investment in a new OS "makes no sense," McKinney claims. "For [HP] it's about innovating on top of Vista."

The company has nonetheless been one of the most aggressive in attempting to supplement or replace much of Microsoft's interface, most of which has centered around the touchscreen front-end for the TouchSmart all-in-one PC. The computer has media player, photo management, and news software of its own and serves as a near-complete layer over top of Vista.

Apart from an attempt to reduce the effect of Microsoft's control of home PCs, the Linux variant is allegedly being considered to guard against possible moves by Apple into budget notebooks. Without explaining details, the magazine claims that an advisor believes Apple is a "huge" factor and might develop a MacBook below $1,000. The move would put Mac portables into direct competition in a field where HP enjoys some of its greatest successes. How Linux would help is unknown, though the OS would distinguish HP from Dell and others still dependent on Vista as well as reduce the up-front cost of the operating system.

A shift towards Linux for mainstream computers would serve to compound Microsoft's troubles in mending its perception since the release of Vista early last year. Although many of the problems with the software have been fixed since it was released in early 2007, its early reputation and ongoing compatibility concerns have led some home and business users to deliberately hold on to Windows XP or consider alternatives. Microsoft has gone so far as to outline a $300 million promotional campaign to restore its image, including $10 million or more for a set of ads involving Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld that will at first put the company back in the public eye and later tout Windows' strong points.

by MacNN Staff



  1. garmonbosia

    Joined: Dec 1969


    quick everybody,

    hide the chairs from Balmer :-p

  1. eldarkus

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Sienfeld has funny banter with Gates. Doesn't that make Vista better?

  1. chefpastry

    Joined: Dec 1969


    About time!

    More box makers should be looking for alternatives to Windows.

  1. malax

    Joined: Dec 1969


    good point

    I've only used Macs at home for over 20 years, but those Seinfeld-Gates ads have really gotten me thinking about, if not switching, at least buying a low-cost Vista machines and trying it out. And the Linux folks have to be worried too. That ad makes a pretty compelling case for sticking with the Windows hegemony.

  1. boris_cleto

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Still paying for Windows

    HP will still be paying for a Window$ license for every box they sell.

  1. nat

    Joined: Dec 1969



    good one malax. why, i'm thinking of giving it a go myself! after all, as eldarkus says, if seinfeld and gates are funny then it only follows that vista has gotten better.

  1. WiseWeasel

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I guess HP isn't being run by a bunch of idiots after all... We're edging closer and closer to that Linux usability inflection point; it's about time HP jumped on board.

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969



    The only problem with this is if users try to install Windows software, they wouldn't run under a different OS unless they had a very good version of Wine. People would have a fit if the program they bought for their "Windows" machine didn't run right. Nope, I don't see HP or any other computer manufacturer trying to sell a machine with a different OS on it.

  1. dimmer

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Well, except for Apple of course!

    There exists a huge number of computer users who do eMail, web browsing, basic-Office type stuff and don't care about or need software beyond this. Linux and Google Apps and OpenOffice will work just fine for them (and of course cost much, much less.)

    The key is making Linux as abstract at the UI level as OS X, which Apple have already shown can be done.

    A Linux User Interface Guidelines edition would be a great help: the inconsistency of the UI is a major problem for desktop use. HP may be able to work around that at least enough to make the experience usable.

  1. Monde

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Says a ton

    This news says a ton about Vista. How good can an OS be, if one of your main customers thinks it would be better off authoring it's own OS? Answer: Vista hugely sucks.

    The time, effort, cost and copyright skirting to author a new consumer competitive OS is enormous. This is the most damming condemnation of MS I've ever heard.

    It's the equivalent of someone thinking cars are done wrong and reinventing the wheel so that you can get something that performs to your satisfaction.

    Good luck to HP. As a brand, they just moved up in my estimation.

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