During HP’s recent announcement of its TouchPad tablet, it was revealed that the WebOS software running on the company’s line of tablets and smartphones would also find its way into other HP products—most notably, computers and printers.
There was some initial scuttle about what WebOS laptops and desktops might look like and how it’d affect HP’s relationship with Microsoft, but it was soon revealed that WebOS would run alongside Windows on HP computers, not as the sole operating system.
Bloomberg reports that HP CEO Leo Apotheker’s rationale for adding WebOS to HP computers is to increase WebOS’ appeal to developers. “You create a massive platform,” he said.
The more people that use a particular platform, the more developers will want to create apps to sell on that platform, right?
But here’s where HP’s getting tripped up. Bloomberg says, “The move is aimed at enticing software developers to create a wider range of applications that would differentiate HP PCs, printers, tablets and phones from those sold by rivals.” Strip out the part about printers, tablets and phones and you’re left with HP wanting to differentiate its PCs by offering WebOS compatibility.
Why stop at computers made only by HP? There’s an enormous PC market out there and the idea of WebOS running only on a subset of those computers that, from a hardware standpoint, are built just like any other brand of computers seems like an odd move.
In other words, nobody is going to buy an HP computer just because it can run WebOS. But if someone who owns, say, an Acer computer downloads and runs WebOS on it and happens to like it, that person may consider buying a WebOS tablet or phone. Maybe even a WebOS printer.
Tablets, phones and printers are much more closed off from a software standpoint and, as such, their respective operating system actually can help sell the hardware. But PCs are an entirely different animal. Aside from slight variations in components and minimal interface tweaks, a PC is a PC is a PC.
If HP truly limits WebOS to only its computers, it’ll be missing out on a huge chunk of the market and an even bigger opportunity to create the “massive platform” for WebOS that it’s trying to build.
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