Hewlett-Packard confirmed in a July 1 statement that the newly acquired Palm WebOS will be an operating system for the company's upcoming tablet PCs. But the question remains whether Windows 7 will also be present in future HP tablet PCs.
Hewlett-Packard confirmed in a July 1 statement that its newly acquired Palm
WebOS will serve as an operating system for the company's tablet PCs and other
"Under Jon Rubinstein, former Palm chairman and chief executive officer, the
Palm global business unit will report to [executive vice president of HP's
Personal Systems Group Todd] Bradley," read
the company's missive
. "Palm will be responsible for WebOS software
development and WebOS-based hardware products, from a robust smartphone roadmap
to future slate PCs and netbooks."
That represents a big step from May, when
unconfirmed rumors suggested that the expected HP Slate, a tablet PC running
Windows 7 and equipped with video conferencing
, had been canceled; in the
wake of those rumors, analysts speculated that HP would retool any upcoming
tablets to run the Palm WebOS, which was originally developed for mobile
products such as the Palm Pre. By confirming that the WebOS will be used for
tablets, HP confirms those analysts' suspicions about Palm.
But it also remains an open question whether the manufacturer will also
build touch-screen devices that incorporate Windows 7.
Analysts have suggested that the Palm WebOS could affect Microsoft's plans
to enter the consumer tablet market, which has exploded in popularity thanks to
the bestselling Apple iPad released earlier this year.
"The Windows PC operating system does not lend itself to a touch-screen
tablet experience," John Spooner, an analyst for Technology Business Research,
wrote in an April 30 research note. "Given that no single manufacturer or OS
yet dominates the tablet computing space, HP can couple the capabilities
offered by WebOS with its own design expertise to become a key player in this
emerging market segment."
Spooner added at the time: "Microsoft itself is finding the tablet PC market
more complicated than expected."
During January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas,
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revealed a
prototype of an HP tablet during his keynote, highlighting its ability to display
ebooks and play movies. A few months later, in a post on HP's Voodoo blog, Phil
McKinney vice president and CTO of the
company's Personal Systems Group, suggested that a Windows 7-powered device,
equipped with Flash, would provide a viable alternative to Apple's iPad. Then
HP acquired Palm, and the game changed.
Whether or not HP eventually uses Windows 7 in a tablet offering, Microsoft
is confronting its own challenges with the form factor. A number of its
manufacturing partners are reportedly considering Google Android as an
operating system for their upcoming tablets, and
Microsoft recently made the decision to kill its much-buzzed-about Courier
The key to Microsoft's possible success in the space, suggest some analysts,
is realizing that it will have to make fundamental changes to Windows 7.
According to Forrester analysts J.P. Gownder and Sarah Rotman Epps in a May 27
report on the topic, a tablet-specific version of Windows 7 must offer a
"simple, streamlined, guided experience" for users.
"Microsoft and its partners must develop UX shell(s) appropriate to the
tablet format to compete with Apple's excellent iPad experience," the analysts
wrote. In addition, Microsoft and its partners must arrive at an appropriate
price point: "If a sub-$499 tablet offers a bad consumer experience, it will
fail. Prices above $750 would almost certainly be too high for a complementary
device that acts as a second, third or fourth PC in the home."
indicated during a June 3 talk at the D8 conference that a sufficiently customized
version of Windows would indeed run on tablets
. He also indicated that a
stylus, derided in some circles as an outdated input method, still had
viability in the tablet space.
The question at this point, however, is how many of those tablets might be made