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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.

If a foreign company did take the reins, what happens to the HP brand and employees?

When Lenovo purchased IBM's PC business, IBM received a chunk of cash and an 18.9 percent stake in Lenovo. Lenovo took over manufacturing the hardware, while IBM remained the "preferred services and customer financing provider." Lenovo also got to keep the IBM branding for 5 years, as well as absorbing 10,000 IBM employees. What would the future hold for so valuable a brand?

What happens to my warranty?

When Lenovo took the reins of IBM's PC business, IBM stuck around to offer technical support customers who suddenly found themselves owners of a Lenovo IBM PC. I can't speak to the fates of the relative handful of hopeful consumers who grabbed an HP TouchPad or WebOS smartphone. But HP's PCs are in millions of households around the world -- there would be a lot of angry consumers if HP didn't follow suit and offer warranty and technical support, in addition to driver updates so that folks don't find themselves holding an orphaned PC.

Can HP's PSG group survive as its own entity, on the strength of its products?

TouchSmart, Envy, Elitebook, Pavilion -- from All-in-Ones to desktop replacement laptops, HP has its fingers in quite a few PC pies. If HP's PC business is spun off, will it be able to survive without the extensive resources of the HP mothership? Truth be told, an HP PC business that was left to its own devices (pun intended) might do a lot of good, by cutting the crust and focusing on polished, premium wares and leaving the low-end market behind.

Will whatever remains of the PSG take the same approach toward forward thinking, with Synergy and WebOS?

HP had a lot of great ideas on the table that they'd yet to implement. Remember "Synergy?" Actually, you probably don't -- back in March, HP announced that they were drafting plans to bring WebOS to all of their devices. In other words, desktops, laptops, smartphones, and tablets would all share a single ecosystem. Shared contacts and calendars, tapping devices together to share webpages and information -- while you'd have to be invested in the WebOS platform (and HP's ecosystem) to take full advantage of the project, it was an exciting prospect.

With WebOS devices killed off and the future of the platform uncertain, will it be up to Apple (once again) to bring that dream of a unified device ecosystem to fruition?

What happens to the TouchSmart? And more specifically, TouchSmart software?

The All-in-One is what's next for desktops. Large, lush, multi-touch screens coupled with massive hard drives and plenty of connectivity ports deliver the flexibility and performance we've grown to expect from large, stationary PCs. And you'd be hard pressed to find a similarly specced laptop that can compete on price, leaving room in your wallet to pickup an inexpensive All-Purpose laptop for on-to go computing -- or even one of those new-fangled tablets everyone's talking about.

And when it came to All-in-One PCs that didn't have an Apple logo, HP often came out ahead, serving up speedy machines with a palatable price.

But the TouchSmart line stands out. Even if they didn't always top the charts, I could count on TouchSmart All-in-Ones to be doing something different in the space. The TouchSmart software package made great strides towards making sense of Windows 7's multi-touch gestures, giving users a legitimate reason to set the keyboard and mouse aside and get hands-on with their PC. Beats audio offered a legitimately improved aural experience -- often a sore point for the All-in-One form factor. And then there's the HP TouchSmart 610, equipped with a unique mechanism that slides the 23-inch screen down to a 30-degree angle, encouraging use of its multi-touch screen like never before.


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