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.