WebOS coming to every HP computer

HP paid more than a billion dollars for smartphone maker Palm. And by golly, it plans to get its money’s worth.

The buyout was something of a surprise given HP had no previous involvement in the phone market, but it soon became clear the real target of the acquisition was WebOS, a generally well-regarded mobile operating system that suddenly looked a lot more useful when the tablet market came alive in the post-iPad world.

Now though, HP is going a step further: it plans to install WebOS alongside Windows on all its PCs.

It doesn’t appear it will be the traditional dual-boot system used on devices such as some netbooks. Instead it looks as if the two systems will be more integrated. The idea is that users will be able to install and run WebOS apps through an app store model, but be easily able to revert to standard Windows operations where needed.

The main goal for HP in making such a move is to make WebOS more attractive to app developers by vastly extending the potential audience. If it can make WebOS a major player, it could in turn persuade more firms to make apps designed for other HP devices such as “smart” printers or tablets (such as the wireless printing feature illustrated above), in turn making those devices more attractive to buyers.

There’s certainly a whole bunch of ifs and maybes in there, but given HP controls WebOS it seems a fairly low-risk strategy. As long as its able to integrate the two systems in a way that doesn’t utterly confuse the average buyer expecting a “pure” Windows experience, there’s no real downside even if the benefits aren’t as strong as it hopes.