A letter to HP
Thursday August 21st 2008, 10:22 pm

Prison 

Hello, HP.

The UI of your latest TouchSmart computer says something about you. You may not have recognized your own weaving-in of meaning, but it comes across quite clearly if one reads just right: You want out. You want to escape the world of Windows to which Microsoft has sequestered you for the better part of two decades. 

Ah, but you can. No longer does Bill Gates stand guard outside your cell. Ballmer is busy in the lavatory. It’s time to ditch Windows and build a Linux distro around the TouchSmart UI. 

Let’s make this clear: You’re Hewlett-Packard. It’s 2008. Microsoft can’t touch you this time. You have a design team that’s capable, you have a hardware platform that’s maturing, and you can afford to hire the Linux expertise you’d need to pull this off. 

Build in a TouchSmart word processor, diminutive in features but rich in usability. Add a few more core apps to the package to wean people off Windows; customize Firefox for optimal touch navigation. Keep your UI layer proprietary if you want, or go ahead and make the whole thing an open-source revolution that you get to be at the center of, selling the best computers for TouchSmart Linux. 

Imagine, HP: you could be like Apple, with full control over your hardware and OS. Why keep grinding along to compete in the dreary Windows desktop market when you could create a new market of your own? Your captivity of innovation under Microsoft is over. You’re free. 

Free to invent, as you might put it.

 

Decommissioned prison photo by CxOxS 


28 Comments so far
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YES!! I applaud the author for putting this proposal out in the open. Windows is simply too outdated. It’s about time a tier-1 computer manufacturer take this advice and ditch Windows. We need a leader to take this first step so everybody else will follow. Crossing my fingers HP will come through for us.

Comment by Nachos 09.01.08 @ 9:47 pm

Did you know that HP was in the Windows desktop UI market years and years ago? Look up HP NewWave( or New Wave ). This was back in the day when Microsoft thought the PC should be Windows on top of DOS( Windows 3.x ) and it completely changed how Windows would work. The story goes, Microsoft hired most of the staff of the New Wave product to do what became the Windows 95 UI.

HP also did a handheld UI based on their clean-room created VM called Chai but it too was destroyed indirectly by Microsoft because they’d lose Windows CE based kickbacks for all the other Jornada based handhelds as Microsoft paid billions to kill off the PalmOS threats.

Unfortunately, HP is not that daring these days and pretty much seems happy squeezing out penny’s playing in the Windows market with everyone else and by Microsoft’s rules.

Comment by Crash11 09.01.08 @ 10:08 pm

What did you need to do for the /. editors to get your blog of no consequence onto the front page? It may be a slow news weekend, but not that slow.

Comment by Steve T 09.01.08 @ 11:01 pm

I couldn’t agree more. And I remember that pretty little handheld. Betcha they still own the patents.
Look at the Touchsmarts. Look at products like the 2133. HP is positioning themselves as a provider of solutions in the new market segments, but done with more polish; more pizazz. And yes, they should be including a basic little text editor optimized for the touch interface. A basic image editor. A simple mail package. Like the EEE PC app set or, if your mind goes that way, the original MacPaint and MacWrite that, while forgotten now, did a huge amount to establish the Mac UI back in the day.
I, too would be delighted to see all of this built on Linux. And I’ll tell you this much. As a designer and a publisher I call tell you that most of us are creeped out, at best, by the increasingly Microsoft-ish behavior of Adobe. Apple? I’m currently going pretty far out of my way to avoid “upgrading” to a new Mac with the new apps and OS. So are most of my friends. A sleek hardware-software package of the sort you’re suggesting would be just the thing to get many an art department to buy a couple of boxen and experiment with freeing themselves from the new round of monopolists.
C’mon, HP, do it. You’ll make A LOT of money, the business press will call it daring and love you, and we’ll all be better off.

Comment by Rustin H. Wright 09.02.08 @ 12:30 am

Stupid.

Comment by someone 09.02.08 @ 12:33 am

How does the TouchSmart system justify the comment:
“You want out”

If anything, this could/will improve accessibility of Windows for people with disabilities or physical restrictions.

For a move to Linux, other software houses will be required to make the move also – why would they do that, when they are making money over fist on the back of Windows.

Comment by Wayne 09.02.08 @ 1:48 am

Hey, thats a picture of my old cell in E. Berlin!

Comment by W-Man 09.02.08 @ 1:49 am

Wayne, why would the other software houses make the move? The applications are already there for linux.

Comment by pipatron 09.02.08 @ 2:50 am

You’re full of shit. Fosstard

Comment by fred 09.02.08 @ 3:25 am

It’s time to ditch Windows and build a Linux distro around the TouchSmart UI.

Right, it’s time to ditch 90% of the market and sequester yourself into a 0.8% nice within a niche, all so a fanboy can get his rocks off.

With .net and wpf and tabletpc, and all of that stuff built into Windows already, the actual code for TouchSmart makes up something like 1% of the stack necessary to make it possible. Building a whole new system around it based on Linux, although not impossible, is no short order.

Build in a TouchSmart word processor, diminutive in features but rich in usability. Add a few more core apps to the package to wean people off Windows;

And give up the application support and familiarity that comes with Windows. There’s a lot more potential in TouchSmart as a shell replacement on Windows, then there is in turning it into a gimmick to be used as a stepping stone to push the almighty Linux.

ustomize Firefox for optimal touch navigation.

It may come as a shock to you, but people actually use their computers for much more than just Word Processing and browsing. Further, you’re suggesting their build their own operating system around the UI, build their own word processor, why stop there? Why not have them build their own browser, too? What’s so special about firefox? Or is TouchSmart to be a gimmick used as a stepping stone for Mozilla as well?

or go ahead and make the whole thing an open-source revolution that you get to be at the center of, selling the best computers for TouchSmart Linux.

The consumer market doesn’t give two shits about open source. The bulk of the market doesn’t know what to do with source even if it’s availible, and frankly shouldn’t have to. Apple didn’t base OS X on an OSS core for the sake of an OSS revolution, they did so because it suited their agenda and was convenient. I doubt HP cares much about this “revolution” either.

magine, HP: you could be like Apple, with full control over your hardware and OS. Why keep grinding along to compete in the dreary Windows desktop market when you could create a new market of your own?

The ‘dreary’ Windows market is more than 100x the size of the Linux market, and about a dozen times larger than Apple’s market. That may have something to do with it.

Your captivity of innovation under Microsoft is over. You’re free.

Right, because a system who’s kernel is derived from Minix, and who’s base-userland is a straight knockoff of the traditional Unix base-userland is paragon of innovation.

Here’s an idea, if you’re so keen on a Linux-based Open Source, touchscreen revolution, we’ll, have the OSS community save some dignity and build one, rather than trying time and time again to essentially goad innovative companies into doing it for you. You might actually be taken seriously that way.

Comment by bob 09.02.08 @ 6:38 am

Get a life fanboy.

Comment by TCK 09.02.08 @ 6:46 am

[...] writes “HP’s TouchSmart desktop is cool, but a blogger suggests it could be the beginning of a revolution if HP were to finally make the move of ditching Windows and building a Linux distro around the [...]

Pingback by How HP Could Turn a Novelty Into a Revolution « A Writer’s Point of View 09.02.08 @ 7:13 am

won’t happen. i mean, i like the idea, but it won’t happen.
think about it this way, man: you own a restaurant in a corrupt town with corrupt cops. you go to a lot of trouble getting in with the right people and getting all paid up to avoid ‘accidents’. as soon as you do that, do you up and move the eatery to east nowhere to avoid the protection racket already part of the business plan? no, you make the place seem more swank and jack the prices.

i am not saying MS is evil. they have actually done a lot for us as users. cheap PCs are largely because they were so agressive. i am not saying linux is nowhere, i have a couple of slack dev boxes in my apartment. i am saying that HP cut out their market share and is not going to risk it on a curious toy turned into little more than an apple clone market.

maybe they could demo an enthusiast line… you know, if the numbers justify it.

Comment by the mighty null 09.02.08 @ 7:24 am

Why would they want to “be” Apple ?

Apples public image has taken a beating since the JesusPhone came out.

Comment by Mark 09.02.08 @ 9:52 am

Your idea is good but HP only deals with Microsoft.

Comment by Mike 09.02.08 @ 10:46 am

Wow! Lot’s of /. venom here.

I applaud the author for being a fanboy/girl. A fan of elegant solutions and innovation. Unlike many of the simple detractors who have contributed so little through their comments, the author sees and hopes for, a better world of computing. I don’t know about the economics of running a business like HP, nor does the author profess to understand such things. He does, however, propose an idea, that if, through some business and financial wizardry, HP was able to implement, might indeed herald a new way of thinking in their industry. With an entire industry resting on only two major platforms, there is certainly room for another player. Why not HP? Why couldn’t HP become the vendor who finally brings a non-proprietary software core combined with an apple-level usable interface and hardware design to the mass market? Maybe they will, and maybe there is no business reason for doing so, but like the author, I can dream.

Comment by B1uMunky 09.02.08 @ 10:56 am

Two Words why people won’t switch to Linux….
Quick Books.

Comment by Light 09.02.08 @ 11:20 am

Right, you do realize that the Touchsmart UI was written in Windows Presentation Foundation, and that it was a huge collaboration with Microsoft. I assume that you spent sometime thinking about this, but clearly no time looking into it.

Comment by Convictus 09.02.08 @ 11:30 am

Light’s got a point there. From a business perspective, the only Windows application I use for business is Quickbooks, but this argument can very apply to most accounting setups that aren’t the expensive console-app Oneir (Vigilant for Linux). GNUcash? Please.

Comment by Gene Kay 09.02.08 @ 11:35 am

POLITICAL DISCUSSION:
Yes, why don’t you do it like Apple?
You already have your own REAL UNIX operating system HP-UX!

Build your own hardware, use your own operating system, invent a user interface everyone wants to use because it’s hip but is practically not usable for daily purposes.

Why don’t you Linux people not just rip-off the UI idea from HP like for example Apple does it all the time?
fvwm looks like Windows, KDE looks like Windows, a lot of Linux window managers look like Windows or Apple UIs.
Better make a good copy than a bad own hack.

I’m getting sick of this Windows/MacOS/Linux/What-the-heck-the-OS-is-called rants!
There’s an operating system for every purpose and I don’t see Linux as a real alternative for desktop application.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m using Linux for more than 12 years, MacOS for more than 4 years and DOS/Windows for more than 17 years.
I CAN compare and yes I know this article is more about the HP UI.

TECHNICAL DISCUSSION:
Either way as Convictus already pointed out WPF was used to implement it.
Unless the Mono-project hasn’t ported the Microsoft-specific parts of the .Net-platform to Linux/Unix rewriting the Touchsmart system is a time consuming job to do.

And on the other hand you really need the appropriate hardware to use such an interface.
You need a multi-touch display, a powerful processor, a powerful graphics board, a decent amount of RAM and the whole system has to be optimized for performance and high user responsiveness.
It’s not worth to port this UI to Linux/Unix as I assume most Linux/Unix users don’t have the appropriate equipment to it would be worth to port.

Just my two cents.

Comment by ballermann 09.03.08 @ 4:08 am

I loved your short but to the point article about Touchsmart.
And hopefully you dont mind, but I even linked to it on my own blog ATI
http://trancethomas.blogspot.com
And I think Linux is headed in a very good direction now with all the great distros that are available now, even for Linux newbies.
Take care…

Trancethomas;)

Comment by TT 09.04.08 @ 2:49 am

@ballerman: Multi-touch display I don’t have. Are there any standalone units on the market? (better question: Does anyone want fingerprints on their monitor?)

Looking at the specifications of both the Touchsmart models, my Linux computer beats the pantaloons off them in processing power and graphics; my computer equals the amount of RAM in these machines because you don’t need more than 2 gigabytes of RAM for fast Linux desktop use.

As far as porting, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too difficult really if you used Python and SDL. Don’t underestimate how quickly you can write a Python program, and when you consider Vista’s extra bloatage, I’m sure it would run as fast as the original .NET implementation.

(the Touchsmarts aren’t going to sell very well anyway so the whole discussion is moot)

Comment by Chris Lees 09.04.08 @ 7:37 am

Every PC manufacturer should be ditching Microsoft and Windows. The best they can do is Vista. Windows 7 is now a re-branding for Vista. Vista kernel, Vista driver model, Touch from Surface (a.k.a. Vista).

It’s all just Vista. Which sucks.

Comment by aikiwolfie 09.05.08 @ 4:12 pm

Hi, I found your blog on this new directory of WordPress Blogs at blackhatbootcamp.com/listofwordpressblogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, i duno. Anyways, I just clicked it and here I am. Your blog looks good. Have a nice day. James.

Comment by James 09.17.08 @ 10:31 pm

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Pingback by Recent Links Tagged With "escape" - JabberTags 10.03.08 @ 9:19 pm

Awsome post, I couldn’t agree more :)

Comment by otubo 07.25.09 @ 12:29 am

POLITICAL DISCUSSION:
Yes, why don’t you do it like Apple?
You already have your own REAL UNIX operating system HP-UX!

Build your own hardware, use your own operating system, invent a user interface everyone wants to use because it’s hip but is practically not usable for daily purposes.

Why don’t you Linux people not just rip-off the UI idea from HP like for example Apple does it all the time?
fvwm looks like Windows, KDE looks like Windows, a lot of Linux window managers look like Windows or Apple UIs.
Better make a good copy than a bad own hack.

I’m getting sick of this Windows/MacOS/Linux/What-the-heck-the-OS-is-called rants!
There’s an operating system for every purpose and I don’t see Linux as a real alternative for desktop application.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m using Linux for more than 12 years, MacOS for more than 4 years and DOS/Windows for more than 17 years.
I CAN compare and yes I know this article is more about the HP UI.

TECHNICAL DISCUSSION:
Either way as Convictus already pointed out WPF was used to implement it.
Unless the Mono-project hasn’t ported the Microsoft-specific parts of the .Net-platform to Linux/Unix rewriting the Touchsmart system is a time consuming job to do.

And on the other hand you really need the appropriate hardware to use such an interface.
You need a multi-touch display, a powerful processor, a powerful graphics board, a decent amount of RAM and the whole system has to be optimized for performance and high user responsiveness.
It’s not worth to port this UI to Linux/Unix as I assume most Linux/Unix users don’t have the appropriate equipment to it would be worth to port.

Just my two cents.

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