WebOS: HP, and HP Only. QNX: RIM and RIM Only

WebOS: HP, and HP Only.

With the launch of RIM’s tablet computer based on QNX and HP’s confirmation that WebOS will not be licensed, we have

  • Apple the largest tablet and music player company,
  • HP the largest PC company,
  • RIM the largest smartphone company in the US, and
  • Nokia largest smartphone company in the world

avoiding Android.

These are the companies which today are profitable and enjoy large market shares. Why did they choose integrated (aka “closed”) software with their hardware vs. the modular (aka “open”) approach offered by Google and Microsoft?

See also: asymco | Android’s Pursuit of the Biggest Losers

  • Charlie

    Is the software chosen by Nokia – Symbian and MeeGo – actually closed?

    I think you’ll find they’re far more open and free (as in speech, as well as beer) than Android (free as in beer only), can you explain what you mean by “closed” since both the Nokia platforms are available to anyone else, arguably on less onerous terms than those from Google.

    What do you think about HPs plans to embed WebOS in printers – they reckon they will be shifting 15m such WebOS enabled printers next year. Seems like overkill to me, a solution looking for a problem, or a desperate attempt to keep their ink supply business relevant during the final transition to fully electronic publishing.

    • I use "open" and "closed" in quotes on purpose. Nokia's approach to software platforms is in theory modular but in practice integrated. This is nothing to do with the intentions of Nokia, I take them at face value to be honestly motivated in opening the technology. This is to do with the practical considerations of licensing and having licensees (free or otherwise) for mobile platforms. It's very difficult to maintain a wide license base and the reality is that there are few takers when the orchestrator is also a dominant competitor.

      • Shaun

        Redefining "open" and "closed" as you've done isn't going to stick.

        Symbian and MeeGo are clearly "open" by the definition of what most people know as open software. Full source disclosure, open licencing, independent body overseeing development, open bug tracking and source repos, commits from third party devs.

        Android is less open since it's controlled by Google only and they develop it as closed source and then *poof* it's "open" with no third party involvement. They seem to lurch from one 'hero' device per release too with each release version being tightly based around one manufacturer's device and not necessarily being that good on others.

        Windows is clearly not open in any way.

        iOS has some open development but not that it matters.

        I'm struggling to come up with a better set of terms though that matches your mixing of Google and Microsoft in the same category yet puts Nokia in the other.

        Usually correct definitions of "non-proprietary" and "proprietary" would stand but I think you're getting at the hardware more than the software so it's more "off the shelf" v "in-house" development of software.

        The Samsungs, Motorolas, SEs and HTCs of the world all just cherry pick "off the shelf" software for their hardware whereas Apple, RIM, HP and you're arguing Nokia all use "in-house" software.

        I realise Nokia contribute maybe 90% of the code to Symbian and are doing most of the work on MeeGo but many would struggle to agree that it's entirely "in-house" development tied to their hardware never mind "closed". If you'd used MeeGo on an N900, you'd also realise it's not "integrated" either.

      • twilightomni

        I think you're missing the point, Shaun.

        Symbian is freely available, but the point is that Nokia is using its own software that it created and specifically knows how to integrate.

        There is a big difference between Nokia using its own [post-facto open-sourced] operating system, and using someone else's open-sourced operating system.

        I think asymco's point has nothing to do with the actual availability of the code, which is why he quotes "open" as he does – not to deny, but to insist that openness really isn't the key quality in discussion here.

        It really is entirely integrated vs. modular, not open vs. closed. iOS could be completely open-sourced and yet it would still have completely different quality and product implications than Android.

    • WebOS in printers is not a bad idea. The logic for HP is simple: use mobile operating systems to enhance or sustain a business of selling ink for $7500/gallon. I don't buy ink and I don't follow the ink business so I don't know how likely they are to succeed in selling more ink with a mobile OS attached. But it's not likely that mobile OS innovation will affect the ink business adversely for some time. There are many people buying tablet devices to avoid paper consumption but that's still a tiny niche.

      • Timo

        WebOS in printer may make sense in some ways: making printer more intelligent for advertisement and capable of accepting more print jobs, mainly photos, now also from smartphones and networked digital cameras. In fact, HP's ePrint printers already do this while probably not running WebOS yet.

        To support their core business model, they can make special deals on HP consumables (ink, paper) when the printer thinks it's running low, with convenient one-click shopping – right from the printer screen. My HP printer already suggests printing supplies and displays (HP) ads.

    • berult

      HP = Printing mindshare.

      Piggy backing Web OS on its forte makes sense. The lucrative ink business is ancillary to the fine tuning of a successful Web OS marketing strategy. HP and Web OS have absolutely no room for error; first time must be the right time.

      The iPod mindshare launched iPhone and iPhone OS, granted, in a far less competitive, and, in a relatively stagnant smart phone market. Jumping on a moving train requires coordination and very strong legs to pull you through. I had to do it once on a relatively slow moving one, and I barely made it for the life of me; but it was all about the exuberant overreaching of youth then…

      Strong legs I believe HP has; coordination is up to savvy, so they could; everything, HP's thread of life rests on a combination of granularity and speed of the train… 

  • tom

    why? ask ansi vanjoki

  • kevin

    I like the integrated ("closed") vs modular ("open") distinction from the point of view of the device maker. In one case, the software and hardware are developed in a fully integrated fashion by a single device maker. Or the device maker uses a modular approach, getting software from an external vendor and matching it with his own hardware.

    Integrated devices: Apple, RIM, Nokia, Samsung (Bada)
    Modular devices: everyone else plus Samsung

    But this construct doesn't fully address it from the software point of view. A licensing construct may work for that.

    – not licensed (iOS, WebOS, QNX, Bada?)
    – licensed by a single developer (WM, WP7)
    – openly licensed by a single developer (Android)
    – openly licensed by an open community (Symbian, MeeGo, Linux)

  • Gandhi

    Well, the Street does not seem to be that impressed by RIMM's vaporware announcement.

    Rimm seems to be betting on QNX to save them from the onslaught of the iPad, but QNX is for embedded systems. How are they going integrate an app store and apps? Can an embedded system like this that was previously used for single function devices adapt and work well with the varied demands of personal computing.

    The only conclusion I could draw from RIMMs announcment is that they are trying to stem the tide of corporate IT departments having to switch to iPhones and iPads as demended by their constituents. the Playbook has no price, no battery life data, no concrete info on how it will access the web when away from the office, and no firm release date. By the time it gets released, iPad will be on ver. 2.

    I believe Microsoft already tried this with the HP Slate about one week before the iPad was shown. Look how well that worked out for them.

    • rd

      What is funny that in order to develop for PlayBook
      you have to use WebKit/HTML5 or Flash.
      What happen to Java. Does it not work on A9.
      How many enterprise are using Flash or even HTML5
      for mission critical apps.

      • Charlie

        A Java VM is promised for the Playbook which should allow easier porting of Blackberry apps, however RIM lack a cross-platform "native" SDK which could be a problem longer term.

        RIM will be offering a native QNX SDK for PlayBook which will mean native apps for PlayBook are incompatible with native apps on BlackBerry devices (and vice versa) unless QNX is ultimately destined for the phones as well.

      • QNX on Blackberry seems highly probable.

    • Shaun

      Back about 10 years ago with the release of QNX Neutrino, QNX was a pretty competent desktop OS too, easily up there with things like BeOS.

      In the late 90s when Gateway owned the assets from the Amiga, they were going to use QNX as the replacement for AmigaOS. I remember seeing demos of Doom running half on one desktop and half on another entirely different computer. Their Photon UI was pretty cool back then and the microkernel / message passing based real time OS matched up with what the Amiga had well except without the downsides. Unfortunately something went wrong between Gateway and QNX and they never shipped.

      Rumour had it that Gateway weren't happy with QNX's performance on their PowerPC based hardware but equally at the time Gateway weren't in the best of shape and when you're a PC clone maker releasing PowerPC hardware with a non-Windows OS doesn't sit well with Intel and Microsoft.

      So, please excuse the trip down memory lane but I wouldn't discount QNX as just a single function embedded OS. It's got a very flexible lightweight architecture and is quite possibly better suited to Phone and Pad use than any UNIX based OS.