Lauren Goode

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HP’s Former CTO: Ultrabooks Are Nothing New, webOS Still Has Life Yet

Phil McKinney, the former chief technology officer of Hewlett-Packard’s PC unit, is taking a hard stance on Ultrabooks.

“There’s nothing new,” he told AllThingsD in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “And many look the same. If you covered up the label on them, you can’t tell them apart.”

Ultrabooks, in case you’ve missed the ultra-noisy hype this week, are Intel-driven lightweight laptops, with Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, and Acer getting into the game, to name a handful. In addition to portability, some computer makers are punching up the laptops with features like carbon fiber and Gorilla Glass coatings, flexible bodies, NFC chips and battery boosters.

“At the end of the day, they have Intel chips; they’re running Microsoft Windows operating systems,” McKinney said. He pointed to the HP Voodoo Envy 133, which hit the market in 2008, had a 13.3-inch display and weighed only 3.4 pounds (albeit at a $2,000-plus price point).

McKinney was attending CES as a member of the press — he’s writing a column for Forbes. He was also promoting his upcoming book, “Beyond the Obvious.”

McKinney exited HP last fall, following a tumultuous couple of months that included a CEO swap, the abandonment of webOS hardware, and reports that HP might spin off its PC unit. During McKinney’s nine years at the PC maker, he guided much of the company’s innovation and R&D. More recently, that included the development of Ultrabooks, he said.

McKinney also offered his thoughts on webOS, which HP acquired with Palm back in 2010, and which recently became an open source project. “I was disappointed by the decision to kill the hardware. I still think, though, there’s a lot of life left in webOS,” he said.

He hears from developers and tinkerers, he said, who are still excited to work with webOS, but are waiting for the code, the access and the governance model from HP in order to really begin developing on the platform.

“Ultimately, I think webOS could become the alternative OS that you can download on devices that come with another operating system built in,” McKinney said. “Apps from developers are continuing to grow for webOS. The interest is still there.”

(Photo courtesy of the DEMO Conference/Flickr)

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