HP sets sights on rivals with webOS software
RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. (AP) — Hewlett-Packard Co. will soon include its webOS system for smartphones on all its PCs, upcoming tablet computer and higher-end printers, putting it in competition with operating software from Apple, Google and Microsoft.
HP's intentions, laid out at a prominent technology conference Wednesday, represented a particular challenge to longtime partner Microsoft Corp., whose Windows operating system runs on all of the 65 million PCs that HP shipped last year.
CEO Leo Apotheker said the company should have put webOS further into the marketplace sooner. HP acquired webOS when it bought struggling cellphone maker Palm Inc. last year.
At first, webOS will sit on top of Windows in personal computers, Apotheker said. He hinted webOS could run on its own and be licensed to other hardware makers over time. But he said Windows will continue to have a presence for years to come. "I don't believe that Windows will fade into irrelevance," he said.
Apotheker's statements came at the "D: All Things Digital" conference, an annual event hosted by News Corp.'s Dow Jones & Co., which also owns The Wall Street Journal. It has become a well-attended forum for executives to talk about strategy on the southern California coastline.
Micro-blog service Twitter's CEO, Dick Costolo, announced a new photo uploading service and more relevant searches that would show photos and videos without having to click through to links. Netflix Inc. CEO Reed Hastings elaborated on the online video company's ambitious content-buying and expansion plans. Group discount company Groupon Inc. CEO Andrew Mason kept mum on the possibility of an initial public offering of shares.
HP's interest in spreading webOS lies in making sure phones and PCs work seamlessly together — like Apple's Macs and iPhones. HP also wants to make sure it has a foothold in the fast-changing mobile software market, a market that is being fought over fiercely as the computer industry adjusts to the mobile Internet frenzy.
Apotheker said HP aimed to make webOS the No. 3 mobile platform after Apple Inc.'s iOS, which runs iPads and iPhones, and Google Inc.'s Android system. He said that many people would become attracted by the system's unique ability to connect with Web-based services.
"Once we are the third alternative I think the race is wide open," Apotheker said. "This is a marathon, not a sprint."
HP plans to install webOS on more than 100 million devices a year — all of HP's personal computers, printers that sell for more than $100 and the TouchPad, a tablet computer HP plans to launch this summer.
The move further into software should also help HP improve its profit margins, he said.
Apotheker's comments further detailed a new direction for the world's largest makers of PCs, which he has helped shape since becoming CEO in November.
"You'll see a completely different HP emerging over the next three to four years," Apotheker said. "That's why for the first time in quite a long time there's actually an articulated strategy when it comes to cloud services, when it comes to connectivity."
Twitter's Costolo said the explosive micro-blogging site will now allow users to upload photos easily with their tweets, a function intended to "remove the friction from adding photos into Twitter." Searches will now show photos and videos and rank results depending on the number of times the message has been "re-tweeted" and replied to. The authority of the tweeter and whether users follow the tweeter will also affect the results.
Deal-a-day coupon company Groupon and online travel company Expedia Inc. said Wednesday they will launch a new travel website together.
The companies say they'll offer discounts on hotels, airline tickets, car rentals, cruises and vacation activities. Discounts will be significant — about 50 percent off retail rates found at other online travel sites, they said.
Netflix' Hastings said the subscription video company would continue paying more to Hollywood studios for movies and TV shows to show on its Internet streaming service, adding that paying more than $200 million a year for shows from the Starz pay TV channel "wouldn't be shocking" when their current deal expires in 2012.
As the company continues to add subscribers and expands globally, it can maintain its profit margins even as the price tag for content goes up, he said.