Linux

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.

63 comments
jimbok1
jimbok1

HP is building a new operating system for the machine. They are also working with Linux for the new machine. I suspect one reason , possibly the main reason,they are using Linux for a 2nd O?S platform starting point is that source code is fully available for the operating, also the documentation on the details of the OS is available, and finally the researchers involved are probably experienced in Linux. I would suspect whatever they end up with will be very different from Linux as we now it and will evolve into another OS based on the new architectures in the Machine. This includes not having to wait for data.

janitorman
janitorman

I've been hearing about the "Memristor" project at HP for some time now but so far, it's "vaporware" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memristor

If they really can do it, it will change the face of computing forever.

Your tablet (or something even smaller)  can BE your desktop. Imagine storage, memory,  and heck, maybe even a processor on a chip the size of the current SD card. Since the theoretical memristor also doesn't depend on just 1's and 0's as current technology, a single "bit" as understood now, could hold a million or more "bits" similar to a pixel, instead! Binary computing will be gone forever.

Then, we just need to see holographic screens, to where your tiny device will have any screen size you want, without having an actual screen. I don't see it soon, but possibly within my lifetime.


fedupwithjunk
fedupwithjunk

Jack, I would say thanks for stating the obvious but maybe it isn't so obvious because so many have failed in their attempts so far. Canonical looked hopeful this time last year but .... Anyway HP have always had a proprietary heart and will fail just like Kodak did. IBM, Fujitsu, etc have given up and just steal any idea they can to make a quick buck. Too clever for their own good kinda sums them up and the once solid hardware has become sloppy and unreliable. Last week I bought an HP envy printer but failing on page 1,3,4,5,7,8,9 and 10 means its going back to the store this week.


People like style, they love compatibility and they they need reliability. What we don't need is some daft bu88er re-inventing the wheel in a slightly different way. I used to hate Apples anal desire to be different at all costs but now they seem to have grasped the importance of working with others, I love my iphone. Maybe there is hope others will develop solid platforms if they stop trying to be too clever. Remember Acorn?


The really depressing thing is that this 8 core Windows laptop I am typing on is not really that much better than the 386 Windows machines of 25 years ago. My Linux work machine requires just as much tinkering as 25 years ago and one drop of coffee destroyed my iMac keyboard.


The only real leap IT has made in this time is the App Store concept that promoted the concept of meeting users needs far more that any 'Major corp' ever has.


Give me solid hardware, unbreakable software and an OS that allows me to do what I want and not what it thinks is best.

erispre
erispre

I got a very different impression of The Machine from the actual presentation. It seems that this system is targeted at ALL devices, not just servers, not just desktops, everything. In fact, it is explicitly said that you should forget about these kind of distinctions: The Machine is everything.

Also, HP Labs it not only building an OS based on Linux. That is just a side project. They are actually building an OS from the ground up to use the capabilities of The Machine to the max.


As far as success is concerned, it will all depend on community effort. And that's why everything needs to be open source: in order to get this new architecture (it is a complete overhaul of what we see as a computer) off the ground, people will have to be able to work with it and tinker with it. I expect that the first consumers will be large enterprises, who can easily build their software on this open platform. The increased speed and capabilities are a big plus and I'm guessing that the cost of rewriting their software could actually pay off.

themachineoracle
themachineoracle

HP today is a company with a dump management team and few able engineers left, if any. In order to to justify their existent, the management team often came up with seemingly great projects (webos, touchpad, smartphones, cloud computing, autonomy acquisition, etc) which ultimately failed. These projects failed because of an incompetent management team who is only concerned with their short term bonus and is thin on substance. I suspect that "The Machine" is just another one in their path to total destruction and oblivion.

return.desender
return.desender

My 85 year old mother has been using Linux for almost 7 years now.  If my Mom can use Linux, anyone can.  Yup most people of her generation use it for email, word processing, and occasional browsing.  She's not running servers.  


Linux has performed very well for her.


Wayno

www.pkill-9.com

Jaqui
Jaqui

In all honesty Jack,

I don''t care if HP makes a linux based os for "The Machine" or not.


I don't care if they release a linux preloaded machine for the consumer or not.

I would still have to rip out any preloaded software and install something I like.

[ the current medialess devices means I won't spend money buying them, preloaded with windows, when my dying hardware kicks it, I'll not replace the systems, since I cannot buy one with no preloaded software. ]

nicmcd02
nicmcd02

This is an absurdly dumb article. "The machine" isn't intended for desktops. Oh and by the way, desktops are dead. Why would anyone focus on desktop development? The only people using desktops these days are power users, which isn't a big enough market to focus on. "The machine" will initially target servers, which are already dominated by Linux. Why is this shocking that HP would use Linux? Linux is open-source and freely hackable. In the end, if The Machine is successful, Microsoft will provide drivers for it as well. The Machine is a computing architecture that in theory can handle any OS that supports its hardware.

adacosta38
adacosta38

Wanna bet this machine will be running Windows 10 and Office 365 in 2016? As much as Linux has improved over the past 10 years, if its not meeting the needs of Enterprises and consumers, how will be of any value? A lot of enterprises right now are running custom apps built on Windows, not to mention Office. Not mention the vast library of apps such as Adobe, Autodesk, Intuit etc. HP has tried crap like this before and failed. Prepare for another one to be added to the list.

Gisabun
Gisabun

HP is doing this to save money. Others have tried it and failed. Dell did it a number of years ago - shortly after dumping [for the most part] Linux.

HP is in the game to make a fast buck. They're turning into another Acer. Any way to make a quick buck. Their  financial problems prove it. They've been in a rut since at least 2011.

Damon Palovaara
Damon Palovaara

Android is to iOS and Windows phone as this is going to be to MacOS and Windows. It's going to be the alternative, the hipsters will pick it up first and once they brag about how much better it is the general public will follow along

Raul Patterson
Raul Patterson

Love this! I hope Dell and the other PC companies do the same.

David Cuthill
David Cuthill

How many *nix based companies has HP bought over the years! Has it lost all that Intellectual capital?

D Soup
D Soup

Using Linux is easy enough that HP or any hardware vendor could sell such a machine if they simply put some effort into it and didn't try to fool folks into thinking that they had Windows underneath (like some disastrous attempts at marketing cheap "Lindows" boxes).


The real trick to the average user being able to run Linux is for the hardware vendor to have their own carefully tweaked upgrades to the OS that for certain run in their box/laptop/tablet. It is the occasional glitch in proprietary wifi drivers or proprietary video drivers that is the biggest annoyance for the uninitiated. Fix that at the upgrade site by knowing exactly what the hardware is and it's a problem solved.

George Whitman Too
George Whitman Too

I don't care whether they succeed or not as long as they give Microsoft Windows a wake up call. Just call me a meanie.

Parinaz Behbudi
Parinaz Behbudi

it has already done that, the OS is called WebOS and it's a linux based one, much more powerful than android, but somehow like android, I''m On it ;)

Jim Ballard
Jim Ballard

As much as I love Linux , I see a problem in convincing the general public to use it. In addition, most of those who are already Linux savvy know how to install it and make it work. So, if it's not for the general public and it's not for the initiated, for whom is this machine built?

Dragan Randjelovic
Dragan Randjelovic

I do. HP has enaugh capacity to develop a must-have piece of tech, and idea to be linux based duda is prerequisite indeed. Software part of it suppose to be an open source project released by HP, while hardware part supose to meet and exceed expectations for regular hp product lines. I bet in wearables with genuine and eternal design, like modular/scalable bracelet with always enaugh computing power, colecting the energy from multiple sources, mechanical motion and body or enviromental temperature and sun, with ability to acumulate it for operation.This design implies low power consumption device. Interface with human or animal would have to be genuine and ergonomic as well, while re/purposing supose to be left to be driven by open source comunity. I have some ideas how but I would wait for a job offer first :)

Sanders Kaufman Jr.
Sanders Kaufman Jr.

It'll feed a niche market of anti-Microsoft zealots, but it won't run most of the popular software out there - because most of the software out there was written for Microsoft. But since anti-Microsoft zealots tend to have a "Tea Party" style attitude, the moment a large corporation tries to enter the market, those users will perceive a conspiracy against them and turn against HP in a very vocal and antagonistic way.

youngwyllie
youngwyllie

They say its going to use a "Linux based OS" not a regular Linux distro or make there own Linux distro. There is a high chance of them making this new OS from scratch and will not function like the desktop Linux you are currently used to, probably it will be in the lines of android like Linux. If they make a Linux distro using what is already available and offered in most current distributions then they will fail. Linux distros on the desktop are not polished enough for this. Am expecting them to use Way-land/Mir/surface flinger or create their own Graphics system. make their own package manager with very easy installation of software quite similar to windows to make it easier for new users, maybe it will be using HPK's . and their own DE maybe something similar to cinnamon or chrome Os desktop or unity and maybe a combination of all the best features from the fore mentioned environments. all am trying to say is they will make something much much more polished than the Linux we know. am rooting for them though we need Linux to rule the Desktop too.

perlwonk
perlwonk

But the "Machine" is a refrigerator sized computer that will revolutionize data centers. This article assumes taking the desktop is in HP's plans. That would be wonderful if they were thinking along those lines, but are they?

Chris Glahn
Chris Glahn

HP is in the best position to make this a success. The one limitation I have had in Linux implementations has been Printers, Scanners, Faxes and Camera "out of the box" experience. HP could make this happen. Also if they put it on their servers, you end the need for the MS network compatibility -- most apps have a Linux equivalent replacement ... Except Microsoft Office - though if this is a successful run, maybe we'll see Microsoft Office for Linux.

Paul Gureghian
Paul Gureghian

would this be considered as bonafide Linux distro essentially or some kind of hybrid?

Doc Lady
Doc Lady

Linux is better than Windows. I am looking for this. I'm a grandmother who wants to give her grandchildren the best.

Ramon Soto
Ramon Soto

I believe not only HP but the other Computer manufactures as well, Linux is now to the point that it can be loaded pretty much in any x86 machine, they just have to choose the right distro.

Allen.
Allen.

@janitorman Holographic screens in our lifetimes? Forget that, I want a direct neural interface.

dmcshane
dmcshane

The desktop he is referring to is the UI that 8s presented to the user upon login. Hence the reference to Windows 8 "Metro" tile interface vice Ubuntu and the standard desktop look or a Mac "button" look. Frankly Microsoft blew it by not just calling the whole thing a giant customisable start menu. I have been to college classes for varios RH based OSs and have tried sevetal others on a system at home. Ubuntu was the only one that accomplished "at home" requirements like wireless printing right out of the box. I really think there is just too much user configuration purposely built into a Linux machine to make it take off.

fatriff
fatriff

@nicmcd02 Really?? Would you care to explain the 2 billion desktops currently in use around the world then? Just because you can't afford one doesn't mean nobody else can't.

mark
mark

@adacosta38 

LOL Adacosta says Linux is not meeting the needs of Enterprise customers. 

That comment must be a joke. 

We have over 600 servers and over 50% are RHEL Linux. We deploy more Linux now than Windows, Virtual or Physical. 

In addition we have about 15% of desktop workstations running various flavors of linux.  

Seems to be meeting our needs with much less support after the deployment. 

WE AREN'T the ONLY ONES.

janitorman
janitorman

@adacosta38 Wanna bet this machine won't be produced before 2018 at the earliest, anyway? That's the "projected" release date of the (so far) Vaporware that is the memristor. I'm not saying it's not possible, in fact I look forward to it, or something similar, and computing not limited to our current binary technology.

da philster
da philster

In fact, HP has been dabbling with Linux for quite a while. More than 15 years ago, they had developed a Linux based OS called HP-UX. To HP's credit, this is probably why many HP printers will work with Linux.

peacedog13
peacedog13

I have an hp touchpad that I ought prior to the blowout they had. I picked it because I found it to easily be the best OS for a tablet at the time. With the reworked iOS that looks like it was designed by a 13 year old girl and the identity crisis that is Windows 8, HP would be wise to revisit their webOS platform and actually back it up.

jkm2a
jkm2a

I think to get them to use it, all that has to be done is preinstall it, debug it, and hand it to them.  Techies love to tinker with their computers and OSes, but the general public doesn't want to tinker, they just want it to work - something that Linux does real well.  Perfect case in point is my wife - she is about as non-technical as they come, likes to use a computer but doesn't want to know anything at all about them other than how to do the things she wants to do.  I installed Fedora 12 on the family laptop a few years back after it developed a dislike for Vista, and after about 15 minutes of showing her how to get logged on and get to the Web and her email, she never looked back.  Knows absolutely nothing about how it works, she just knows that it does, and that's all she cares about.  Just this weekend I upgraded it to Fedora 20, and she is at the moment unhappy because it "looks different".  Once I get the final touches on the setup and spend about another 15 minutes making sure she can deal with the changes, we should be good to go for the next 4 or 5 years.


I think one major (and mostly unmentioned) roadblock to Linux acceptance is widespread resistance from technical support staffs.  Most of 'em are trained in Microsoft products, that's all they know, and they are not willing to invest the time and effort to learn a new OS.  I work in tech support, and am the only one in my department that runs Linux on a regular basis.  We pay ridiculous amounts of money to Microsoft instead of using open source products which would accomplish most of the same goals, and always the same rationales - "it's the industry standard", "we have to teach the students on Microsoft, it's what they'll be seeing in the real world", "it can't be any good if it's free", etc., etc., ad nauseum.  The users, for the most part, would have no problem using Linux, as long as they don't have to set it up.

mark
mark

Sorry guess again. Most modern Linux distros are easier to install than Windows. 


You should actually use the product b4 you comment on it. 

The install has gotten so it is irrelevant click next, next, next, finish etc.  The only time it gets confusing is if you need to change partitioning and such and if you are doing that you probably have a clue what it going on under the hood anyway.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Much of the general public is already using Linux (Android) happily without knowing it.

D Soup has a valid point about pre-installation.  I've been saying for years that selecting and installing a distro over an existing, functional OS is too scary for the average user.  There's just not enough reward for the risk.  Most stories you read about people installing Linux for their family and friends begin, "My buddy's Windows system so eaten up with viruses...".  These systems weren't working effectively, so the risk of installing another OS wasn't very high.


Who's it for?  Beats me.

D Soup
D Soup

I think you don't get why Windows worked for the masses. It came preinstalled. If HP preinstalls a full-up Linux system and then supplies upgrades that match their hardware it will be simple for everyday users to make it work. My wife switched to Linux a few years ago and she just runs Virtualbox when she needs to use WordPerfect and otherwise she's quite content to run Linux.

janitorman
janitorman

Do you call every Android user an "anti-Microsoft zealot?" Guess what? People don't care what's on a device as long as it works. Have you checked lately how popular Android mobile devices are, compared to Microsoft's? 

Also guess what? Android... has a Linux core!

D Soup
D Soup

Most users of Libreoffice don't know they're not using MSOffice. It just works. The average tablet user isn't trying to run Word Macros and canned Excel spreadsheets. They just want to browse and view Youtube.

soltesza
soltesza

@youngwyllie That didn't work very well with WebOS.

If you bypass standard "desktopish" Linux toolkits and environments, then all software must be provided by you and third party app developers will probably ignore your product in favor of more popular, established OSes like iOS and Android. (unless you actually invent the wheel but that is unlikely, even with memristors)

If they build on Wayland for example, then most of the standard Linux software will be available for them so they can take OSS projects and create more polished versions with relatively little effort. Without this, they have to provide even the most basic software and HP is not very good at this.


An example: When the HP Touchpad came out, it could only play H264 videos with MP3 audio tracks which was the fault of WebOS and its proprietary GUI environment, since, the Snapdragon SOC working in it supported hw decoding on every imaginable format. There was only one commercial video player for playing other formats. It was a joke even then. Now, imagine that happening in 2015. People would say baah, and take the product back to the store in no time. Your average Linux desktop will play anything you throw at it nowadays. You may need to confirm that you need some codecs but those will be installed automatically and the video starts up.


Current Linux desktops are at a usability level where most things "just work" and usually only minor glitches happen (e.g. brightness control doesn't work with the FN key, so you need to use a desktop applet). However, HP could make a perfect desktop Linux distro for their machines since they know their hw so even minor glitches could be avoided.

little noodles
little noodles

Finally a sane response. I don't know what makes Jack Whalen think this is any kind of head to head traditional desktop system. Its some new kind of internet appliance if it has any home use at all. Of course the fact that it will be guaranteed to work with Linux may mean that hackers find some interesting uses for it - perhaps even on their desktops. But HP's not going to try to compete with Microsoft... yet.

bobc4012
bobc4012

I bet you said the same thing about the iPhones, iPads, Android, etc. Yet that is where the money is and Windows 8 is lagging in that area!

bobc4012
bobc4012

If they stay true to the cause, it will be available to anyone. If they tweak like Apple does with FreeBSD, then that is another matter. I could see them creating a desktop environment that takes the best from the existing DEs.

soltesza
soltesza

And even ARM based machines are fairly manageable nowadays (they don't have any desktop-Linux compatibility out-of-the-box).


Usually, there are some guys who craft a fairly usable distro for popular ARM machines. Just look at the innumerable distros for the Raspberry Pi.

janitorman
janitorman

@fatriff @nicmcd02 "Can't afford one" or is of the new generation that THINKS their consumer oriented Android tablet IS a computer, even though most people will never create a single document worth reading on one, because they're too busy doing things like watching videos or reading Facebook?

jkm2a
jkm2a

@da philster Slight correction there.  HP-UX was/is a Unix OS, not Linux.  There is a difference.


janitorman
janitorman

@little noodles  In 1970, a computer was LARGER than a refrigerator. No one saw any use for them at home either. Now, we have devices that fit in the palm of your hand that do more than a computer of any sort in 1970, just 45 short years ago, and technology is moving at a pace much more rapidly than it did in the 70's or even 80's. More new things come out in 4.5 years now than did in the previous 45. So, "The Machine" could well evolve, in 5 years, into a device the size of a flip phone, that has more power than a whole room full of servers, and do just about anything.

I'm not saying it WILL, but I'm not discounting the possibility. 

Computing is still in its infancy. I wonder what we'll have  45 years from now?

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