HP, Oracle to Enter Competitive Mobile OS Market

The mobile device operating system space has continued a long, drawn-out explosion of innovation due to the battle of Apple’s iOS and upstart Android from Google.  Especially after Android recently unseated Symbian as the top smartphone OS, that space has seemed entirely taken up by the two combatants who have been pushing the envelope of development and seemingly leaving no breathing space for a newcomer to get a word in edgewise.  Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 has seen delays getting to market and industry pundits are taking a “wait and see” position regarding the ability of the fine people in Redmond to develop meaningful market share.

Move over, says HP and Oracle.

HP recently announced several things they have set their sights on, specifically their intention to become a major cloud computing source and also to enter the mobile device field with their HP webOS which they acquired with their purchase of Palm in 2010.  HP has already introduced two smartphones to release this spring, the HP Veer and HP pre which are to release with HP webOS 2.2.

The bigger deal is the entrance into the tablet arena with the 9.7-inch HP TouchPad which will run on webOS 3.0 and is rumored to release in June for around $499 with a complement of features meant to compete with the iPad 2.  A 7-inch tablet nicknamed the Opal is also rumored for a September release date, in time to hit the holiday season.

Perhaps even more significantly, HP also announced they intend to ship all HP computers with the HP webOS on board starting in 2012.  HP CEO Leo Apotheker has indicated this is a bid to inspire developers to develop apps that will enhance and differentiate HP computers.  Developers have created well over 300,000 applications for Apple devices and over 250,000 for Android. According to HP, their webOS only has a field of 6,000 apps. If you’re an app developers, this is good news.

Oracle’s recent ownership of Java has meant a number of questions coming from the long-lived development community, a few more of which were answered recently.  Java ME is the version built for running devices that languished due to lower priority while under Sun’s wing.  Oracle is interested in turning that around.

Two key overtures occurred recently.  First, Oracle’s now much-publicized lawsuits and threats against Android with claims that the breakaway OS contains illegally copied sets of Oracle code.  In general, software giants only get into legal tussles for two reasons: to protect their IP (very legitimate) and to protect a market position they are working on entering or maintaining.

Second would be comments at the Server Side Symposium in Las Vegas this month.  Adam Messinger, Oracle VP of Development for Fusion Middleware reminds us that Java ME is already installed on many devices which he says ship at a “tremendous rate.”  He says Oracle has recently had discussions about Java showing up on tablet devices and also plans are underway to empower developers more by improving Java ME with capabilities such as library changes, metadata, annotations and more.

Whether Oracle intends to establish Java ME as a branded entrant and competitor in the mobile device space or keep consuming market share from the shadows remains to be seen.  In similar fashion, whether HP is able to replicate the success in computers they’ve had into the software and OS space also remains to be seen.  One thing is certain about both players: they have the resources and vision required to be contenders and they intend to enter the space, and that space is about to get a little more crowded.

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