For the first time, HP has launched a laptop based on Google's (GOOG - Get Report) PC operating system, Chrome OS. It's a wonderful 14-inch laptop priced at $300 with no expensive add-on gimmicks. You should buy one.
Before I get into the review, I have to set the stage for why this is happening. Why is HP no longer exclusive with Microsoft's Windows PC operating system?
It all starts with CEO Meg Whitman. When she assumed the role as CEO, there were many fires to triage. Many things were about organizational management, balance sheet optimization -- frankly, firing layers and layers of fat. Blocking and tackling.Ultimately, though, getting in shape physically doesn't help you win the race if you're running in the wrong direction. You need to be running in the right direction; you need to be on the right technology bandwagon. Whitman did what I did: Go sample the 16 cafes closest to the HP headquarters. This is Stanford and Facebook (FB) territory, folks. She probably saw what I saw: Almost everyone was using Apple (AAPL) laptops -- almost nobody was using Microsoft Windows PCs. Oh well, there was one: He was in a suit. Turns out he was some accountant-banker-consultant type visiting from New York. For all I know, he may have been working on HP's now-defunct old PC strategy: Typing on his HP Windows laptop wearing a conservative suit, he stood out as if he were wearing a turban and pink dress in an Amarillo, Texas, Baptist church.
Whitman saw what I saw: The younger demographic has already left Windows PCs, and they are all using Apple MacBooks. No matter what she would do to perfect working capital management or cutting a middle manager layer, this cost-cutting would do nothing to the Windows PC revenue decline that is secular in nature. Then she went to her neighbors in Palo Alto. Tim Cook won't license his Mac OS to HP -- or anyone else. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, however, were more than thrilled to help Whitman see a new light in HP's PC tunnel. So they licensed her their beloved Chrome OS. But what future is there in Chrome OS? Isn't Microsoft Windows dominant? Chrome OS is now in 3,000 U.S. schools, and the entire public school system of Malaysia. As Lenin said, if you catch them while they're young they'll be loyal party members.