Hewlett Packard CEO Leo Apotheker confirmed to Businessweek earlier today that every Hewlett-Packard PC that ships in 2012 will include WebOS alongside Windows, adding some detail to HP’s surprise announcement last month.The idea is to create an instantly massive userbase for WebOS so developers will be more likely to create apps for it.
Having a bunch of apps could help HP sell smartphones and tablets that run WebOS — or at least stop WebOS from getting buried by competing mobile platforms like Android and Apple’s iOS.
It sounds great in theory. HP ships more than 60 million PCs every year. WebOS got a lot of praise when it was introduced by Palm in early 2009 — it’s got an attractive interface and multitasking, which Apple’s mobile platform still lacks more than two years later — but was hampered by Palm’s lack of marketing muscle.
But stepping back for a minute, it’s hard to imagine a killer use case for WebOS on a PC that already has Windows.
There are thousands of Windows applications for every imaginable purpose: browsing the Web, sending email, games, playing and creating audio and video, backing data up online, drafting architectural plans, you name it. Windows does a fine job of connecting to wireless and corporate networks, it works with thousands of devices and add-ons, it’s got an interface that’s familiar to millions. Oh, and it runs Office, which people still use to get work done.
What could an equivalent WebOS app do better? Or faster? Or cheaper?
Even if HP or a third-party comes up with a killer app for WebOS, users will still be doing some (or most) of their work in Windows.
Does HP expect users to switch back and forth between environments depending on which app they’re using or which feature they want? That sounds like a hassle.
Or will HP create some kind of emulator that runs WebOS apps so they appear to be on the Windows desktop? Good luck getting those apps to perform as well as native Windows applications.
In addition, it seems that WebOS developers would have to redesign their apps to work with a PC keyboard and pointer…or that HP would have to ship every single PC with a touch screen.
HP is set to discuss its overall business strategy in more detail next Monday. Hopefully the company will provide some more detail on its plans then.
But right now, the idea of putting a tablet (or smartphone) operating system next to Windows on a PC makes about as much sense as trying to squeeze the full version of Windows down into a tablet.