Come 2012, HP's WebOS platform won't be just for phones, tablets and printers. The PC maker plans to put WebOS on all of its laptops and desktop computers starting next year.
HP chief executive Leo Apotheker revealed the plans in an interview with Bloomberg. He hopes that WebOS will help HP differentiate its PCs from competing products. "You build a massive platform," Apotheker said.
WebOS debuted in 2009 on Palm's Pre smartphone, but never took off commercially despite a warm critical reception. HP acquired WebOS along with Palm in 2010, and has since put the operating system on printers and the Pre 2 smartphone. The company is now working on the TouchPad WebOS tablet and two new phones, the Pre 3 and Veer.
However, HP's plans for PCs are still murky. Apotheker told Bloomberg that WebOS will run alongside Windows, but HP chief technical officer Phil McKinney told the Seattle Times that the company's PCs will have an "integrated WebOS experience." It won't be a virtualization, he said, but rather an "enhancement" to Windows.
My guess is that HP's future PCs will have access to WebOS apps, and maybe some of the platform's fancier features like the ability to touch two WebOS devices together to transfer messages, phone calls and websites.
The challenge for HP will be to make the PC version of WebOS attractive enough on its own that consumers don't dismiss it as another piece of bloatware. I'd like to see the "Just Type" bar integrated into HP PCs, along with "Synergy," which ties multiple Web services and social networks into a single system for contacts, calendars and status updates. WebOS phone and tablet users may look forward to the integration, but their numbers are small. HP will have to concentrate on features that provide the best window into WebOS for all users.