HP's bold move

HP is freeing itself of Microsoft and mapping its own future

March 24, 2011
HP's bold move

Right now just about everyone is talking about Google, Apple, iOS and Android but there is one player that most are overlooking – HP.

The US$130 billion company, the world’s largest hardware maker, has been noticeably quiet over the past couple of years but judging by recent declarations, is now ready to take a leadership role.

Last week HP’s new CEO, Leo Apothekar, spoke out for the first time about the company’s future and in doing so has almost unambiguously pushed HP back into the ring.

HP has never really been the boldest of companies, preferring to quietly cater to customer needs without rocking the boat. In particular HP was always loyal to Microsoft and even in the face of new operating systems such as Linux, never once stepped out of line far enough to express a preference for one or the other operating system. Now Apothekar seems ready to present a new face and in doing so has pretty much put Microsoft on notice that WebOS is its new favourite.

HP bought Palm Computing last year for US$1.2 billion and, along with a range of mobile phones, also picked up WebOS, a Linux-based operating system. Initially it wasn’t all that clear what the purchase was about. At the time HP had shown off prototypes of a tablet PC running Windows. Its hardware ran Windows almost exclusively and there didn’t seem a lot of sense in HP changing a winning formula.

Except it would now seem that HP doesn’t see a reliance on Windows as a winning formula anymore. One of the first things Apothekar did as CEO was to declare that every HP device would ship with WebOS; but what are the implications of that?

For one it means that HP is now free of Microsoft and is ready to forge its own path. It obviously now has to manage its own operating system environment but it doesn’t have to rely on Redmond for its future.

It also makes Microsoft into a competitor for HP. Soon two of the world’s largest IT companies will be vying for the attention of developers. With hundreds of millions of devices in the market, from printers to mobile phones, HP will become increasingly attractive to developers.

Initially it looked as if HP would simply add WebOS to its offerings, as an alternative to Android or Apple’s iOS but now it seems clear that it is a far bolder move Apothekar has in mind. Just as Apple has managed to develop a platform that is difficult to ignore, so too will HP be difficult to ignore. Especially if every printer, tablet PC, mobile phone and desktop PC it produces is running WebOS and are able to communicate with one another.

It’s impossible to predict HP’s future but at the very least the company can now be appreciated for taking a bold step that can’t go unnoticed.

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