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BLOG: The fate of PCs at HP: 10 questions

Nate Ralph | Aug. 19, 2011
With HP mulling over spinning off its PC business or selling it outright, there are plenty of questions that need answering.

How's that for a heady Thursday: HP --the world's largest PC manufacturer-- announces that they aren't really into the whole "building PCs" thing anymore, thanks to double-digit profit margins and many other facets of their corporate portfolio. It's a sensible (albeit dramatic) decision, but one without a conclusion: options are being mulled, while foundries continue to crank out desktops and laptops that could very well need a new logo within the next year or two. This leaves lots of questions on the table.

If HP's brand power is off the table, where will consumers turn?

HP was the largest PC manufacturer (by volume), and a household name for time immemorial. Sure, there are plenty of other manufacturers out there, ready to sell you a desktop or a laptop. And while they certainly offer excellent products, the names Acer and Toshiba aren't necessarily the first that'll come to mind for the average consumer. Will these players to step in and fill the void for consumers looking for a Windows machine? Or is Dell out stocking up on champagne?

Is this IBM 2.0?

Spinning off their still-profitable PC business will help the company "focus on enterprise and SMB [small and medium-size business] segments where we can best leverage our value-add." That's a fair approximation of HP CEO Leo Apotheker's statement during Thursday's earnings call, in response to why HP is considering ditching the PC business. Only that quote comes from IBM CFO Mark Loughridge from a conference call back in 2004, when IBM announced they were leaving the PC business for the greener pastures of Enterprise support and software development.

That deal proved to work out in the long run for both IBM -- who has gone on to make strides in supercomputing and AI development -- and Lenovo, who has since become an international player in the PC market. If HP does sell off their Personal Systems Group, will their future be as bright?

Who would buy HP's PC division, anyway?

Back in March, the rumor mill was buzzing (briefly) that HP was planning to sell off its PC business, with Korea's Samsung as the most likely candidate to make an offer. Those rumors were quashed as merely rumors by all parties involved, but, in light of yesterday's announcement, could a deal be back on the table? It would make sense for Samsung -- the corporation has made a strong showing with its laptop wares, with machines like the Samsung Series 9 ultraportable making a strong impression. Snapping up a juggernaut like HP could make a lot of sense for Samsung.


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