It's a strong testament to the power of Linux that HP has chosen WebOS as the platform for many upcoming phones, tablets, printers and PCs. WebOS is of course based on Linux, and its launch on HP's new TouchPad this week marks its official debut in the tablet space.
Reviews of the TouchPad so far haven't been entirely favourable, it's true.
What I think is exciting, though, is that most criticisms of the device focus on its hardware and relative paucity of apps. WebOS itself, by contrast, is garnering considerable praise, suggesting that WebOS and Linux have an exciting future on a raft of new devices, even beyond that which Android has already achieved.
"I like the interface a lot," wrote the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg, for example. "Instead of a screen full of app icons, the main screen of the TouchPad's operating system, called WebOS, presents running apps as 'cards'... and these cards are clever."
Similarly, "WebOS and the Palm TouchPad are nearly perfect, an excellent amalgamation of everything that was ever right about Palm," agreed John Biggs on CrunchGear.
Instead of launching yet another Android tablet, then, HP has bet its future on Linux in a different form, and it's off to a promising start.
'A serious competitive weapon'
The Linux Foundation is unsurprisingly pretty excited about HP's bold WebOS move, and I asked its executive director, Jim Zemlin, for his thoughts about the TouchPad on this eve of its debut.
"My early assessment is positive," Zemlin said. "WebOS definitely stands out in the device as a stellar choice by HP, and the user experience is fantastic."
HP's decision to use WebOS for its TouchPad and other new devices, in fact, "shows us again that Linux is a serious competitive weapon," Zemlin said. "HP is using a Linux-based OS as the foundation of its strategy to compete in a new world of computing. That is very significant."
'Companies can get to market faster'
This result is a benefit for Linux, of course, "because it means even more people are using Linux and working on the operating system, which is what makes it better year-after-year," Zemlin pointed out. "Also, when combined with the success story of Android and others, HP's move provides yet another example of the flexibility and power of the operating system."
It's also good for the companies creating today's new devices, he noted. "With Linux, companies can get to market much faster without starting from scratch, while taking more control over their own destinies," Zemlin explained.
That, in turn, is good for users, too, as is the smooth interconnectivity among devices that HP's WebOS-everywhere strategy will enable.
Think Linux is too hard to use, or just for geeks? Even aside from the growing success of Ubuntu, it's time to think again. Linux is now everywhere you are.