By Harry McCracken | Friday, August 19, 2011 at 3:41 pm
The HP I write about is the one that makes laptops, desktops, printers, and various other consumer and small-business devices. I don’t cover its enterprise business and will never mention the enterprise-software company it’s planning to buy, Autonomy. (Whoops, I just did! Never again, I swear.)
So the news that HP wants to stop making PCs leaves me feeling melancholy. An HP that gets out of the PC business will be one that I’ll cover a lot less, even if I continue on covering the products of the spun-off company–which, I suspect, will still be sold under the HP name.
But I’m not really surprised by HP’s decision, especially since its new CEO, Léo Apotheker, is a hardcore enterprise-software guy, not a consumer-electronics type. And despite Apotheker’s suggestion that “the tablet effect“–for which read the iPad–is a factor in HP’s desire to ditch PCs, I think that HP would be doing this right now even if the iPad didn’t exist.
I mean, so many analysts have told HP that it should get out of the PC business for so long that the meme is practically a cliché. A few random examples beginning with one from a decade ago, when HP was trying to buy Compaq:
ZDNet UK’s Dan Ilet, 11/29/2004:
IDG News Service’s Tom Krazit, 2/10/05:
By exiting the PC industry, HP isn’t doing anything that shows breathtaking vision. It’s not doing anything that would have been stunning in the pre-iPad era. It’s just doing something that many, many people who analyze its overall business have recommended it should do. For years. The same thing that IBM concluded it needed to do almost seven years ago.
I’ll miss the old HP, whenever it goes away. (The company says it may take 18 months to figure out exactly how it’s going to extricate itself from the PC industry.) But on some level, the breakup isn’t evidence of how much things have changed for the PC–it’s proof of how much they remain the same. PCs have always been a painful, low-margin, lucky-if-you-don’t-lose-money business for nearly everyone who makes them. All HP is doing is deciding it no longer makes sense to fight the tide.