∞ HP CEO: WebOS coming to all HP PCs in 2012

HP seems to be taking a page from Apple’s playbook, but even extending it further, if recent comments from the company’s CEO are any indication.

[ad#Google Adsense 300×250 in story]In an interview with Businessweek, HP CEO Leo Apotheker said that in 2012 his company will ship all its PCs pre-installed with WebOS, the same operating system that powers HP’s smartphones and forthcoming tablets (through its 2010 acquisition of Palm). The PCs will dual-boot with Microsoft Windows as well.

“The move is aimed at enticing software developers to create a wider range of applications that would differentiate HP PCs, printers, tablets and phones from those sold by rivals,” said reporter Aaron Ricadela.

Apotheker’s hope is to “create a massive platform,” and that might be one way to counter the Apple juggernaut. Apple already has a mobile platform that features tens of thousands of developers and hundreds of thousands of applications. Google’s Android operating system has a huge lead. By comparison WebOS has approximately 6,000 apps – an insignificant amount, comparatively.

It’s an interesting twist on a message the industry heard from Apple last October. “Back to the Mac” was Apple’s theme when it introduced Mac OS X Lion at a press event – the next major revision to Mac OS X which will debut in the summer of 2011. The phrase referred to the circulation of technology between the Mac OS X and iOS ecosystems.

Apple’s goal, unlike HP’s, isn’t to recreate its tablet technology on its PCs. Lion certainly draws from iOS for inspiration in interface changes – the already-introduced Mac App Store; Launchpad, which draws inspiration from the iOS home screen as a way to quickly find and launch application software; full-screen apps; more use of multi-touch gestures; and more.

Apple’s motivation is very different from HP’s, however. The iPad and other iOS devices are drawing new converts to the Mac, as people migrate away from Windows computers and give Mac OS X a try. As these new Mac users are already familiar with iOS, lowering the barrier to entry by making the Mac user experience similar to iOS makes sense for Apple.

HP, meanwhile, is trying to play catch-up to Apple and Google, which both have big leads in mindshare and marketshare with developers and users alike. HP’s first order of business is to try to get more developers making software for the beleaguered WebOS – a $1.2 billion investment for HP that is yet to pay off.

It’ll be interesting to see how HP implements this. While, on the surface, a dual-boot Windows/WebOS PC sounds simple, consider the differences between the two environments. WebOS, like iOS, relies on a touch-driven interface, as opposed to the point-and-click interface of Windows or Mac OS X. Does this also signal major changes afoot for HP PCs? The company already has a line of TouchSmart touch-based computers that would seemingly make the transition to WebOS smoother. Will that become even more widespread in 2012? We’ll have to wait and see.