An HP OS to rival Windows? Unnh...

Martin recalls that the Windows NT group came to Microsoft from DEC, which later merged into HP -- but he still doesn't believe that today's HP could pull this off, and challenges HP to prove him wrong.

A BusinessWeek article by Aaron Ricadela reports that

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), the world's No. 1 PC maker, has quietly assembled a group of engineers to develop software that will let customers bypass certain features of Vista, the latest version of Windows. Employees on a separate skunk works team are even angling to replace Windows with an HP-assembled operating system, say three sources close to the company.

Let's remember where Windows Vista started. A group at DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) led by architect Dave Cutler jumped ship to Microsoft when their New Technology operating system project was canceled. You'll recall that Dave was previously architect of RSX-11M and VAX VMS, and that after the group moved to Microsoft the New Technology system became Windows NT. Windows NT begat Windows 2000, which begat Windows XP (with Windows 98 as its mother), and Windows XP begat Windows Vista.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, DEC merged with Compaq and then Compaq merged with HP. HP was the surviving company, but after the mergers the computer divisions at HP were largely run by people from DEC.

So it's all promising, right? Nope.

The trouble with the theory that HP might produce a viable Windows competitor is that for the last decade HP has not been much of a PC software vendor. They had some grand ideas at one point in the 1990s, which came from a group whose architect was Bill Crow, but the last I heard Bill Crow was at Microsoft, after a stint in the mountains of California as a game architect.

Pardon me if I doubt HP's capability to produce a viable PC operating system, even starting with Linux. Call me cynical if you like, but I don't think they have it in them.

I even doubt HP's capability to produce a useful add-on to Vista, based on what I've seen on my several HP computers. Step one for me with a new computer from HP is either to completely blow away the HP-customized Microsoft OS and install a plain Microsoft OS, or to accept the HP-provided OS but selectively blow away the HP-provided craplets and bloatware.

I'd love to see HP add usability to Vista, but all I've ever seem them add recently was a layer of molasses. Prove me wrong, HP: this is one time when I wish that my pessimism might be unfounded.