Open Source

HP's The Machine kicks Microsoft to the curb in favor of Linux

Jack Wallen offers a few pieces of advice for the development of The Machine, a new HP device that will run an OS that's based on Linux instead of Microsoft.

HP chooses Linux

My how the times have changed. At one point, HP and Microsoft were sharing friendship bracelets and having slumber parties. In fact, over the last decade, HP was a major player with Microsoft. Those days are gone. The juggernaut that was once Microsoft is slowly toppling and companies like HP are seeing the writing on the wall. That writing includes the likes of Android, Linux, iOS — platforms perfect for mobile and embedded systems.

To that end, Hewlett Packard has decided to kick Microsoft to the curb and develop their own operating system that will power all of their future devices. In particular, HP is working on a device they call "The Machine." This new device will be made up of several new technologies — including a new type of memory — and will run a new operating system based on...

Wait for it...

Linux.

This is a rather bold move. HP is placing all of its eggs in a single, open-source basket. Should this succeed, Meg Whitman will look like a genius. Should it fail... I think we know where that leads.

This new operating system will be based on Linux and designed from the ground up to work with non-volatile memory. HP plans on stripping away everything unnecessary to the new devices so the platform is perfectly streamlined for all new hardware.

To HP, I have a few pieces of advice for the development of this new platform.

Place high priority on the design of the desktop

Think about it this way — it was the interface that ultimate caused the failure of Windows 8. HP needs to really up the ante on the interface and ensure whatever they create does the following:

  • Works flawlessly on both desktop and mobile devices
  • Offers a modern look yet zero learning curve
  • Keep it clean
  • Use a stable compositor
  • Design for end users, not developers

One of the problems that plagued the GNOME 3 was that it seemed to never take into consideration the end users. Developing for designers, programmers, and elite users will get you nowhere in the grand scheme of things. All user interfaces must be created with the average user in mind. In other words — make it beautiful and intuitive.

Market, market, market

If I've learned anything over the years, it's that an average product is greatly improved by amazing marketing. Apple is the king of marketing. In fact, their marketing team is so good that they managed to convince a vast user base that they needed, not just wanted, their products. To one up themselves, Apple managed to convince the user base that Apples way was the only way. HP needs to think along those lines. Without that level of marketing, this new HP initiative will fail. Why? Look at the competition. If "The Machine" is a convergent mobile device, they already are climbing an uphill race that Apple is winning (unfortunately, Canonical has yet to produce a viable product).

Pre-install everything

As this will be a Linux-based operating system, make sure to include everything the user will need out of the starting gate. Windows users are accustomed to getting their machines and then installing everything they need to get their work done (along with paying the price for that software). Make sure to include the standard fare for a Linux install. Leave nothing behind in this venture. With just a few inclusions (such as LibreOffice and GnuCash), end users will be shocked to see they have an out-of-the-box product that's ready to go and ready to work.

Make it cloud-friendly

This should go without saying. Make sure The Machine works flawlessly with the likes of Google Drive, Dropbox, and all of the other major cloud players. This should be the case for both desktop and mobile versions.

Don't skimp on the hardware

Another reason Apple has succeeded as well as it has is hardware. They've gone to great lengths to design beautiful hardware. Do not just crank out standard-issue gray or black boxes to house The Machine. You are going to need to make a serious mark. This will be an opportunity to take the reins of a fast-moving, hip stagecoach and move it into a completely different direction. The company that designs the next "it" product will win. That may well be Apple. It could, however, be HP. If The Machine winds up the next "it" product, HP will have done for Linux what other companies have tried for over a decade and failed.

There should also be high importance placed on the design of a laptop — better yet, an ultrabook. Closely examine what Google did with the Pixel. Make sure that the hardware can be seen as highly functional, technological works of art.

HP could be on the verge of changing the very landscape of technology. They not only have the know-how, but the capital and street cred to pull this off. I've been saying, for years now, that if any company could bring Linux to the average user's desktop — it's Canonical. They've tried, but they haven't succeeded on a level necessary to take over the desktop. HP, on the other hand, might well be able to pull this off.

What do you think? Is HP capable of taking a Linux-based platform and turning it into the next must-have piece of tech?

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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