The Evangelist

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Windows Vista has been getting a lot of grief lately from users, IT managers, system administrators and businesses. And Apple has been there all along with their "I'm a Mac" advertisements to stir things up and keep the pressure on Microsoft. The new "I'm a PC" ads by Microsoft is a clear indication of this, because it means that Microsoft has recognized the threat to their marketshare and is now reacting to it.

But it would seem that Vista may be thought about the same way by another group: the Original Equipment Manufacturers, or OEMs.

Hewlett Packard company is the largest distributor of Microsoft software in the world. Yet recent reports suggests that the company is at least considering building their own operating system. These reports suggest that their is a team at HP looking into a Linux-based OS because of Vista's pitfalls. This would suggest that HP is recognizing that many users do not like the direction Microsoft has taken with Vista and the problems others have experienced. Then again, the entire report could just be rumor, the alleged HP contacts not real or just trying to create buzz. I don't think there is enough information to believe either theory at the moment.

But if HP is working on their own OS, that could mean usurpation in the industry if they plan to mass market it (unlike Dell simply selling Ubuntu on laptops that are only available from their website).

The rumors speculate that Hewlett Packard would take the Linux operating system and basically build their own user-friendly distribution of it, modifying it greatly. This would be necessary to compete with Windows, which most users are familiar with. In addition, many users who have tried Linux consider it difficult to use because it lacks much of the automation of Windows, as well as many of the traditional Windows user interface (UI) elements.

Then again, Dell is offering a "Mini OS powered by Ubuntu 8.04" on its new Inspiron Mini 9, which is explained to be "Ubuntu 8.04 with a special Dell interface." This brings up the question of whether HP's OS would really be so different.
Dell's MiniOS

But the real question is why HP would consider this in the first place. Windows currently has the vast majority of the marketshare for operating systems. In making their own OS, HP could be taking a risk. If they do produce an OS and want to distribute it in any meaningful quantity, they may have to ship units to stores and distributors (which would mean convincing those stores and distributors that the risk is worth taking). If they did not take their computers that run Windows Vista off the market, they would risk their new OS not being accepted and the end users only buying the Windows Vista PCs. If they did try to force their new OS and stopped distributing Vista, the users could reject it anyways, doing great damage to HP as a company. Finding a healthy medium would be extremely difficult as well and, if done wrong, could also damage the company.

Hewlett Packard's technique so far has been to try to build on Windows Vista and try to make it more user friendly with additions. This method seems like it may be the best for HP as a company in the end, and certainly the safest. However, compatability and other problems may still exist with Vista, and the additions by HP can't always help that.

And then you have the fact that uptake of the 64-bit version of Windows Vista has been steadily increasing. It would appear that maybe users are ready to move on, as 64-bit compatibility in Windows Vista is not even as complete as that of the 32-bit version. Or perhaps it is being forced on the users (more and more vendors are selling laptops and desktops with the 64-bit version of Vista when the computer has a 64-bit processor).

So the question becomes, does HP think that enough users would be willing to turn away from Vista that they are actually working on such a project and, if so, are they willing to make the jump and take the risk? Only time will tell.


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