HP and Web OS – 2011 is the Year of the Linux on PC

Hewlett-Packard, the little printing company that makes possibly the best if not the greatest printers in the world, is pushing the boundaries of what is possible when it comes to diversifying your business. Already they are No. 2 PC (Personal Computer) and Laptop maker globally, thanks to buying Compaq and making rebranded versions of their PC compatible with their printers out of the box.

They had proven recently, however, that they can think outside of the box. The same out-of-the-box thinking akin to the Google Android resurrected Motorola and the Apple iPad Tablet maker, “Think Different” and No. 3 PC and Laptop maker, Apple in their Infinite Loop of Lemming and Sheep homage.

HP demonstrated this at their launch on Wednesday February 9th 2011 in San Francisco, California of their own Tablet, the HP TouchPad, running WebOS. Just for kicks, apparently, they threw in the naughty au pair girls in the form of the HP branded Pre 3 and HP Veer smartphones as stated in my previous article “HP and the TouchPad – Release the WebOS and the Developers will Smile”.

HP is now on the cusp of rewriting the PC game yet again. HP is now enabling with each and every one of their PC’s to the shipped capable of running Open Source WebOS. Definitely, this may be making ZDNet Writer Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols list of 2011 Top Five Linux and Open-Source Stories come year end!

The words of HP CEO Leo Apotheker in a quote lifted from Bloomberg/Newsweek expresses it best, quote: “every one of the PCs shipped by HP will include the ability to run WebOS in addition to Microsoft Corp.’s Windows”.

This is very big news, folks! HP is effectively the first company to endorse Open Source so prominently in its line of PC’s when in the past, companies feared Microsoft, the Godfather of Operating Systems.

Well, not the absolute first.

That honour, really, belongs to Dell, who in partnership with Canonical, the distributors of Ubuntu Linux, allegedly had been successfully shipping millions of PC’s running Ubuntu Linux Distribution.

This after Dell, holder of the pole positing in the PC Market at No.1 spot, conducted a month-long online survey of one hundred thousand (100,000) of its customers that ended on Tuesday March 27th 2007 – and was duly surprised when 70% of respondents declared that they wanted the option to have Linux on their PC’s Desktop.

Apparently surfing the Internet anonymously, virus and risk free as well as improved PC performance were concerns tantamount in many of Dell’s Windows-phoebe users. A breakdown of the IdeaStorm survey is best expressed in point form:

  • Ubuntu Linux Distribution shipped free with Dell’s Line of PC’s
  • Open Source software bundled with the OS,
  • Hardware Drivers under GNU General Public License under which Linux Distributions operate

Like HP, Round Rock, Texas-based Dell had been a longtime supported of Linux Distributions in its line of Enterprise (“Corporate” for us here in Jamaica!) ready Servers. So the result for users was quite shocking to Dell.

Even some analysts expressed doubts! Analysts opinions expressed despite the fact that, anecdotally, it is well known that Linux Distribution users are typically techies who likes to tinker with the murky command-line of the OS as opposed to the work-centric Windows users.

I know, as I am an unabashedly strong supporter of proprietary Apple iOS and Mac OS platforms, evident from my previous article in support of Apple and its OS and Apps Platform that is rigidly Objective C.

I know, too, how much Apple users boast of not having to use Anti-virus due to Apple’s legendary secure and tight code, albeit I suspect it is more a function of its relatively small market presence.

Ironically, I use Linux Distributions, specifically Fedora and Knoppix at my workplace, Amazing PC Ltd, in Bargain Village Plaza, May Pen, Clarendon, for the same reasons: isolating Computer Virus and conducting Data Backups. Plus, I notice that it makes old Windows machines run better and more efficiently.

I use Fedora and Ubuntu Linux Distributions to do this, as it isolates the Hard-drive and prevents the OS booting up. Thus, viruses are prevented from becoming active, making them easily detectable. Somewhat like an employee at the CDC (Center for Disease Control) wearing the fully enclosed bunny suit looking on a specimen under a microscope!

When on the Internet, I boot up using a bootable LiveCD version of Linux, specifically Fedora, when surfing the Internet, one of the things Linux Distributions are most renown.

So Dell took the historical plunge on Tuesday May 1st 2007 with an announced partnership with Canonical, the company that was the commercial distributor of Ubuntu, to place Ubuntu on Dell PC and Laptops for its regular customers.

Not surprisigly, Dell’s website mentioned the fact that Dell CEO Michael Dell had Ubuntu Linux Distribution Release 7.04 codenamed “Feisty Fawn”, running in a dual-boot configuration on his Dell Precision M90 laptop.

Guess it was really tech-envy in the end expressed in the survey that compelled Dell to go the Ubuntu route in partnership with Canonical. Dell Spokesman Jeremy Bolen, back then at Dell’s launch of Ubuntu, put it best, quote: “We offer Red Hat on our Dell Precision workstations, our commercial desktops and notebooks are certified on Novell SLED [Sues Linux Enterprise Desktop] 10, and now we are extending our Linux program to consumer enthusiasts”.

That was a day I will never forget, as at the time, I was in my sophomore year at the University of the West Indies, Department of Physics, Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences doing my Degree in Electronics and Chemistry. Arguing with IT people in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department with regards to the future of Open Source and Linux was one of my favorite pastimes!

This news became a lightning rod for many of the techies in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department who supported Linux. Especially as Director of Operations at Canonical, Jane Silver, uttered those famous last words at the launch that made many a techie excited, quote: “There are classes of users who want a system preinstalled. A lot of people use Microsoft’s Windows because that’s what the computer comes with. The mere fact that Ubuntu’s available out of the box will increase adoption.”

But techies were to be disappointed. Despite the great announcements back then, it was very difficult to get a PC with a Linux Distribution that had compatible Drivers and Software!

Granted Microsoft began acknowledging the threat of Linux Distributions, specifically Red Hat and Canonical’s Ubuntu in August of 2009. But this spoke little of software compatibility issues and the difficulty of finding Linux-versions of games and Enterprise software.

Then in July 2009 Redmond-based Microsoft, at the behest of Linux uber-geek, Novell Programmer Greg Kroch-Hartman, made a fig leaf gesture by offering three (3) key drivers to the Linux community.

Microsoft even opted to contribute to the development of the Linux Source Code under the GNU General Public License, according to the quote from Microsoft Spokesman Sam Ramie, quote “Because GPLv2 is the license of the Linux kernel; we are releasing the device driver code under the GPLv2 license to facilitate interoperability. Our use of the GPLv2 license, as requested by the Linux community, means we will not charge a royalty for or assert any patents covering the driver code we are contributing.”

Since then, Silicon Valley has been giving more increasingly brash support to Linux for regular users, both on PC and smart phones.

There is the little known example Adobe’s contribution of FLASH code February 2010 to Limo Foundation in, a Linux think-tank and Developer Group dedicated to spreading Linux usage on mobile phones.

A little more notable was Nokia making Symbian completely Open Source in February 2010 in response to the increasing dominance of Google Android.

Then there is equally little publicized release of Wireless Chip maker Broadloom’s Drivers for its line of Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.1n) Modems in September 2010 that is making Linux a popular choice for techies who wish to surf anonymously and securely via unsecured Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Networks on any PC.

Currently in 2011, Google Android OS, now stomping the yard with its 29% of the US smart phone market, with BOTH RIM Blackberry and Apple ions tied for second place at 27%. This according to statistics published by reputable analyst Nielsen in March 2011. Corroborating statistical analysis from COM Score and Gartner would be nice before I get to giddy about this news, however.

Silicon Valley, having long supported its use in such products such as Enterprise Servers, where Linux made it name among Network Administrators such as myself (Network Administrator at Mother’s Enterprises, 2004!), appears to be ignoring Microsoft and pushing the boundaries of what is possible among Linux-loving consumers.

Consumer, who according to Chetek, an online advertiser’s analysis of one hundred and sixty three million (163,000,000) searches between July 30 and August 16 2010, apparently showed 94.14% preference for Google Search engine.

Now we are at this point in history in April 2011 AD, where HP is about to do the same thing. Inevitable, as according to San Francisco analyst Brian Marshal at Bleacher & Co., quote: “Their Achilles’ heel is software”. Evidently elementary!

Evident, as Hewlett-Packard’s business, based on its prospectus is 70% Printers (duh!), Computers (remember, they purchase Compaq and are No. 2 PC and Laptop maker!!), Storage and Networking, with IT Services finishing up with a strong 27% second place finish. Oddly enough, pre-Palm purchase, Software and OS Development accounted for only a measly 2.2%!

When the dust clears a few months later, Linux-phallic users and those of us using FaceBook, Twitter, Google Android and Google Chrome, all run using Linux Distributions, now slowly less techie and more work-oriented (life does that to you!), will have the same choice the Dell PC users have long enjoyed since 2007.

But more interestingly, this push to have WebOS option available on PC may actually be mimicry of Apple’s porting of Apple iOS from their Apple iPad to their MacBook Pro and MacBook Air line of Laptops. Ecosystems, it appears, are truly the buzzword of Silicon Valley now caught up with Tablet fever as they seek to integrate and make Laptop, PC, Netbook, smartphone and tablet seamlessly speak, collaborate transfer data and content.

Looks like HP is really turning on the innovation engine, as HP CEO Leo Apotheker is quoted as saying words which I personally agree: “If you’re the CEO of a global company, you have to act globally. You can’t stay in your office”!

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.