Some advice if HP really is trying for an ‘end-run’ around Windows

It sure would be a great move for the folks at HP (Hewlett Packard) to build an operating system to further distinguish themselves within the terribly “me to” desktop hardware world. Simply put, if Apple can do it, why not HP?

Here is the article I read from Business Week…

HP’s ‘End Run’ Around Windows

“The carefully crafted ecosystem of tech companies built around Microsoft’s Windows operating system is showing signs of strain. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), a longtime Microsoft ally, has quietly assembled a group of engineers to develop software that would make Windows Vista easier to use, or bypass some of its more onerous features. A Skunk Works of engineers at the company is even angling to replace Windows with an HP-assembled operating system, sources say.”

Do I think HP can build an operating system to compete with Windows? Absolutely. As of 12 Sept 2008, HP has a market cap of ~$115B and, according to BusinessWeek “HP is the world’s largest supplier of PCs, with about 19% market share, and analysts estimate overall sales will grow 10.3% this year, to $115 billion.” In my opinion, building an operating system is something HP must do if it intends to remain relevant in the years to come.

Keeping in mind that I hope this is all true and the folks at HP really do have the guts, I would like to offer the 3 following suggestions:

  1. Whatever you do, make sure you launch with a full-blown (and functionally complete) replacement for Outlook (use Evolution as your starting point). This will be key to your success. Winning the “hearts & minds” of corporate/business users will be what makes this venture successful. Do not forget: E-mail is still the Internet’s “killer app!” To be very specific, for better or worse, your Outlook replacement must fully integrate with Microsoft Exchange (2003/2007+). This means group calendering, contacts (address books), notes, public folders, rules, etc. If you want to know what you need, take a look at Entourage2008, compare its support with Outlook 2007, and fill in the gaps. Entourage2008 is about 75% good enough.
  2. Work closely with the OpenOffice developers and the folks at Sun to assure the OpenOffice productivity suite is as close to being a real replacement for Microsoft Office as possible. I use OpenOffice on a daily basis and think it’s great, however, there are still way too many formatting and usage incompatibilities with Microsoft Office, particularly with Word & PowerPoint. You need to spend the money to make sure OpenOffice and Microsoft Office can be used as interchangably as possible.
  3. Make sure you work with RIM to assure compatibility with their BlackBerry PDAs, their desktop software, and their BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server).

If you are reading this and happen to be from HP… Good luck! I, and a huge percentage of the free-world are pulling for you. I will be happy to help any way I can.

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