It's a slow news day in the US (Labor Day here) but I spotted this report on HP's operating system futures. Four of Hewlett-Packard's OS's have met the end of their life at HP, though none have had an afterlife like the one of MPE/iX. HP killed off Rocky Mountain Basic, RTE, Tru-64 and tried to retire the HP 3000's OS. Now the newest HP OS, WebOS, has been "removed to a secure location," as they like to say in the spy thrillers.
WebOS goes into the OS Protection Program at HP's Office of Strategy and Technology. Shane Robison, who was once HP's Chief Technology Officer, leads the shovels in this product sandbox.
The executive team has decided that the webOS software teams will be best served joining the Office of Strategy and Technology while we investigate how to leverage the webOS platform and its ecosystem. This move also supports the teams’ continued efforts with over-the-air updates and the application catalog.
With our focus on business and technology strategy, OS&T will be able to provide these teams with the resources and support they need as we define the best monetization model. The webOS software employees join HP Cloud Services, Vertica, and Business Solutions as an incubating business group.
It's a little embarrasing to pay $1.2 billion for an OS and dated smartphones in 2010, then kill off the vaunted hardware flowing from said OS just 15 months after the Palm acquisition. HP shuttled WebOS into its Indiana Jones warehouse on the same day that reports surfaced of another tablet nearly a-borning: Amazon's Kindle, refitted to breathe its blessing on you through the cloud.
There's rich irony and a real lesson in seeing a massive retailer ready to deliver a cloud-driven consumer product while HP cannot leverage its own cloud technology to drive a tablet. In a few months, you'll even be able to buy a used HP 3000 over the newest Kindle. Commerce, after all, is the heart of the mobile hotspot. It's what has made the iPad the tablet to beat.
The new Kindle will arrive before the holidays, according to a report at TechCrunch from a hands-on tester. The Wall Street Journal reports today that Amazon is testing a new interface for its vaunted website, designed to flow onto a tablet with ease. The kicker to this proposition is the use of Amazon's Prime membership, included with each Kindle tablet purchase. The first year of Prime is free with a tablet, instead of the $79 price. Prime delivers free movies and TV to any browser and lots of mobile devices.
But there are no free movies and TV, at the moment, for the iPad or iPhone, because Amazon is leaning on Adobe Flash for the cloud-based watching. There's a market differentiator. Amazon is said to be using its own OS, a derivative of Android -- but pulled so far into Amazon labs that it is now more proprietary than open source.
This will be the first tablet that Apple will need to consider in competition. Kindle's going to have a $249 model, color, wi-fi, all with content integrated. Free Amazon shipping for a year, streaming movies, Instant On, music from the cloud.
See, Amazon's got a store. A really popular store. The new Kindle will get expensed by Amazon like the crates of shopping bags used at your local grocery.
It's the Gilette model, losing money on the razor so you can buy their blades. Except they're everybody's blades, because you can buy anything on Amazon, even an HP 3000. Amazon collects 55 percent of every dollar spent at its store. Amazon doesn't need to make money on hardware, and the company is not going to get into an app race with Apple, either. They'll have 'em, but who's gonna care? You can shop, read, watch movies, Facebook, email, share pictures, instant message from a Kindle. Want to take a picture? Use your phone.
And the OS? A long while ago (2.2) it was Android, but Amazon is leaving that behind by forking the OS.
The consumer's attitude vs. the iPad? Maybe summed up by a friend of mine, way low-tech, who says, "Interesting. I could see it possibly replacing my Kindle, but I doubt my husband would trade his iPad in for it."
So there you have it, the 2012 tablet market. Low-price consumers sucked into the Amazon vortex. Apple and maybe Lenovo feasting on the rest. HP dumps a few hundred thousand TouchPads into eager hobbyist and technie hands, then quits. And that leaves all the those other Android tablets sitting in warehouses, like the 980,000 Samsung Galaxys shipped -- but Lenovo says were never sold.
Because you need a reason for people to use these things. They're not really great laptop replacements, not yet. But a 7-inch color cart for your shopping, from the world's largest online retailer with the biggest profit margin? Always a market motivator.
HP didn't grasp the value in entering the tablet market, except to try to leverage its purchase of a new OS somehow. When the company built MPE it knew it needed multi-programming (the MP in the name) to differentiate from IBM's batch muscle. An OS is supposed to be the heart of a computing platform. It's been a long time since HP built something like that, crafted to last. The last one HP built? Probably HP-UX, which now needs some fresh hope -- before it's escorted to the Office of Stategy and Technology, too.