I suppose I should preface this article by reminding people that
this blog is based on my own thoughts and observations and does not
necessarily representthe opinions of the IBM corporation, it's partners or small, blue furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.
In an article for Business Week, HP CEO, Leo Apotheker said that HP was going to start releasing systems that can run WebOS, recently acquired from Palm, alongside of Microsoft Windows. His goal is to create an environment where WebOS will have a wider spread and hopefully get more applications. Right now WebOS runs about 6,000 apps compared to the hundreds of thousands run by Android and Apple. It's an interesting approach and might make a difference, depending on how it's implemented. I don't know full details, but it sounds as though it will be a sort of dual boot scenario.
What a different sort of a world! There was a time when such a move would be followed by rumors of impending crushing blows to HP. I doubt that will be the case this time. I don't think that their experiment will be fully successful, because people are driven by their tools. (Boy! Are they driven by their tools!) If it's a dual boot environment, users would have to shutdown one environment to get to the other. Unless there is an absolutely killer app on the WebOS side, that switch will happen seldom, if ever.
It got me to thinking, though, about a similar scenario with my own preferred environment, Linux. If you were going to partition a system to have both environments, you could do the dual boot thing, or you could use virtual machine technology to activate that other operating system from within the other. Obviously, my preference would be to start up Linux and run Windows in the virtual machine, but it could go the other way. In this way people could learn the tools in the new area without having to shut down and restart to get to the ones in the other. I recommend a scenario like this to people who are 90% motivated to move to Linux, but 10% terrified. A partnership with VMWare or similar would surely provide the commercial security that people like for such a thing, though one could always use open approaches to virtual machines like VirtualBox. I'm just guessing that a large company who wanted to do this would want to do it cooperation with other large companies who have similar goals. That seems to be the way that it goes.
Yet, even in this situation, it's all about the tools. If your people are still beholden to tools that only work in one environment, they just aren't going to have any need for the other one. It will just become a big wrapper. In order to be successful, the new environment has to have as many of the tools as possible. Many of the most mature open source tools are available across platforms. Mozilla tools such as Firefox and Thunderbird are easily available. Now that more and more work is being done through browsers, getting everyone into running Firefox on Linux could make an immediate difference. LibreOffice is multi-platform. (I know that it's moderately fresh as a project, but it picks up where the OpenOffice.org code left off when Oracle acquired it.) I know that IBM's commercial products, Symphony and Lotus Notes, run in a Linux environment. I'm sure digging would find some more.
Now that people are using their phones to do things that they used to do on a computer, they've become just a little more open to having some tools that work a little differently. Their views of computing have changed. It's an outstanding time to start trying something different and the open-source world has a number of offerings. I'm curious to see if this HP thing goes and if others will emerge from their fear and start doing things differently as well.
If you're looking for places to start, I still like this list of Open Source projects on Wikipedia. There's also a site, osalt.com, which is specifically designed to help you explore open source tools that might work for you, based on what you are using now. If you end up doing anything in these areas, I'd like to hear about it. Maybe we'll find a way to share it with everyone