My OS pipe dream, and HP developing a Linux distro?


According to a CNET News report, HP is rumoured to be creating an alternative operating system to Windows, based probably on Linux. From the report:

Is the biggest PC vendor in the world looking to give customers an option besides Windows?

An article appearing in BusinessWeek this week cites anonymous sources who say Hewlett-Packard is at least looking into it. “Sources say employees in HP’s PC division are exploring the possibility of building a mass-market operating system,” the article states.

The operating system would reportedly be Linux-based, but would be tweaked to be more accessible to mainstream users.

If this rumour is true, I think it's a fantastic move on HP's part. Apple has shown with Mac OS X that a superior user experience can be achieved outside the realm of Windows by leveraging the power of a free and open source operating system under an aesthetic user interface, on hardware created specifically for the OS and vica versa!

HP's OpenVMS What I've always said I'd love to see; and this development might be a step in the right direction; is a break from the monoculture of Windows replaced by a mixture of operating systems that can communicate through open standards. This is perhaps a weakness with efforts like Ubuntu, Debain and other GNU/Linux distributions; they are emulating the Windows model with all the problems associated with all the trillions of different combinations of hardware that they could potentially run on. For people like me who revel in tinkering with computers this isn't a problem, but for people who actually have work to do on their machines and don't have a degree in computer science it's just a pain in the arse.

I'm imagining a time in the not too distant future when:

  • there are an interesting assortment of operating systems such as Mac OS X on Apple computers, HP Linux on HP computers, Dell Haiku on Dells, ASUS Minix on EEEs…
  • despite their different architectures they can all exchange documents with each other and read them without trouble
  • they can all run software written for others with little or no modification through compatibility layers and standardised APIs that everyone respects
  • instead of terms being dictated by one software vendor in Redmond, computer hardware companies modify the software for their customers needs
  • computers become nice to use again
  • vanilla versions of operating systems such as Debian GNU/Linux and FreeBSD continue to exist separately (as well as being the foundations of the custom OSs above) for power users and computer enthusiasts, just as sports cars exist for motoring enthusiasts!

I know it's a pipe dream that will almost certainly never happen. A nerd can dream though right?

And as for the article specifically related to HP exploring other options besides Windows, any chance HP would create an OpenVMS laptop or consumer desktop? That would be a VERY compelling product! Pipe dream number 2!

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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