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June 03, 2015

HP's Machine dream migrates off OS plan

Technology Migrates AwayThe HP Discover show has wrapped up its second day, an annual event full of sales and engineering staff from the vendor as well as high-line customers. The show included an introduction of the new logo for the Enterprise half of Hewlett-Packard, a spinoff the vendor will cleave off the company in October. It's an empty green rectangle, something that drew some scorn an an icon bereft of content or message.

CEO Meg Whitman said the green represents growth and the rectangle is a window on the future. We can only hope that a logo for a $65 billion corporation that turns out to be a rectangle in green has a good discount attached to the project's invoice.

HP new logoBut another session today that can be consumed on Livestream.com showed a consistent removal of substance from HP's dream factory. The Machine, a project that reportedly was attracting more than half the R&D budget for the full corporation, had its mission backed away from the platform that promised to lead into computing's future. A computer built around the long-pursued memristor will make a debut sometime next year, but bearing standard DRAM chips instead. Of greatest interest to HP 3000 customers, former and those still current, is abandoning the R&D to create a Machine operating system.

An OS for the Machine would have been HP's first such project since MPE. HP hasn't built an environment from scratch since MPE was introduced in the 1970s. Its Unix began in Bell Labs with System V, NonStop was created at Tandem, and VMS was the brainchild of DEC. The Palm OS came from the company of the same name, and HP sold that software to Samsung to be used in refrigerators. HP's head of Labs Martin Fink said that Linux will be the software heartbeat of the Machine going forward. Creating a computer that runs Linux: Nothing there to suggest there's new love for software R&D in Fink's labs.

Fink told the New York Times regarding the Machine that "Big will happen first, small will happen later." He was talking about the scale for the Machine, at first being a 320TB RAM device before becoming sized for smartphones and printers.

Big has developed a way of happening later at HP, not first.

The most telling part of this retrench of this big idea: falling back to a customized Linux as the operating environment for the Machine. Operating systems are big, but HP's not going to force software developers to learn something that has a chance to change the world's computing, as proposed for the Machine last year.

In the main hall of the Las Vegas show, thousands of customers and HP employees watched a clip from Avatar as evidence of HP's ambitions during today's talk. When the clip ended, the hall was silent. "You can clap for that, c'mon," Whitman said. She announced three sequels to come, called the movie a franchise, and adding that HP Enterprise has a five-year partnership with the creators of Avatar. HP's goal is create a rich user experience for the science fiction of James Cameron's films.

Science fiction about computer science might be for sale before the first sequel airs in 2017. HP's keynoted Discover content is all available on Livestream this year, for the first time. Tomorrow is the final day for the event.

10:15 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink

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