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After WebOS On PCs, Will HP Become An ARM Licensee?

HP announced earlier this week that it will bring the WebOS to millions of its computers by 2012, in order to make the company that's almost synonymous with printing, cool again.

Leo Apotheker, its CEO, has made it clear that it want to make HP as cool as Apple is and, we believe that the acquisition of WebOS last year was only the first step to that, giving to HP a proven platform good enough to take on iOS on mobile and desktops.

We suggested in April last year that HP might want to emulate Apple and poaching former Apple executive Richard Kerris was part of the bigger plan.

Furthermore, looking at the HP TouchPad and the iPad, there appears to be more than a hint of emulation; they are almost twins as we noticed; even the name TouchPad is a portemanteau of the terms "iPod Touch" and "iPad", two Apple products

The other move that HP will take in order to have more control on its destiny would be to get a license from ARM to produce its own processors like Apple. Unlike the Cupertino-based company, HP has a very long history in designing and building top quality microprocessors.

The firm developed its own instruction set architecture called PA-RISC in the late 1980's before partnering with Intel to produce the Itanium range of high end, server-oriented processors. HP also tinkered about the idea of ARM solutions in hardware as early as March 2009 (opens in new tab).

Todd Bradley, who came over from Palm to head the PC unit at HP, said back then that HP looked "at ARM quite a bit" albeit for netbooks. Now though HP is focusing tablets and since both Microsoft and Apple have embraced ARM, it is only a matter of time before HP does the same - getting an architectural license agreement - and extend it to territories other than mobile.

HP's core specialisation lies in servers and big tins and unbeknown to many, it does have a vast number of enginners working at HP Labs in research and development with particular emphasis on cloud computing (opens in new tab), networks, data centers and storage (opens in new tab).

Should HP adopt ARM, expect a very focused push in the server/data center segment where HP is going to use its unique expertise in the server market to transform ARM from an embedded, mobile platform to the most versatile chip architecture on the market. This might help to explain HP rumours about a possible exit from the laptop business altogether.

Désiré Athow
Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.