HP surrenders as post-PC era beckons

The stunning announcement by Hewlett-Packard, the world's top personal computer maker, that it is taking steps to exit the business is the surest sign yet the post-PC era is here.

"We tend to throw the 'post-PC era' term around a lot, but it's clear that, in the wake of HP's announcement, were closer than ever to that reality," said independent technology analyst Carmi Levy.

"When a stalwart of hardware's golden age essentially walks away from the business on which it was built," Levy told AFP, "it's easy to conclude that the point of no return has been officially passed."

HP said its board has authorized the evaluation of "strategic alternatives" for its unit that could sell or spin off its PC business into a separate company.

The Windows-powered PC has been at the center of the lives of consumers for years but the arrival of powerful smartphones - essentially pocket computers - and touchscreen tablets like Apple's iPad has lessened its importance.

Consumers no longer need a desktop or a laptop to be connected and with the steady erosion of profit margins on PCs, HP failed to position itself with the products of the future, Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said.

"What (the post-PC era) really means is not that PCs go away but that there's a shift away from computers to computing," Rotman Epps told AFP.

"Computing happens now on many different devices and it's a much diverse landscape than one type of computer," she said. "And HP really didn't have an answer for what was next beyond the PC.

"Where there are higher margin computing products being made HP hasn't been able to succeed," the Forrester analyst said, pointing to Apple as a technology company that has been able to do so.

"Apple has been able to innovate, to sell the iPad, an all-new form factor, because of its non-hardware ecosystem," Rotman Epps said. "It has the channel in the Apple store, it has the service, and it has the software - iTunes, the App store, the whole developer platform."

"HP took a baby step towards getting there when they acquired the Palm webOS but they weren't willing to really go full throttle and invest the capital that would have been needed to make that a successful business," she said.

California-based HP also said it was stopping production of its iPad rival, the TouchPad, and phones based on the webOS mobile operating system acquired from Palm last year for $1.2 billion.

Explaining the moves, HP chief executive Leo Apotheker said the weak economy was having an impact on PC sales but there is also a "clear secular movement in the consumer PC space."

"The velocity of change in the personal device marketplace continues to increase and the competitive landscape is growing increasingly more complex, especially around the personal computing arena," Apotheker said.

"The tablet effect is real and sales of the TouchPad are not meeting our expectations," he said.

Gartner analyst Mark Margevicius said HP's decision to sell or spin off its PC division was more about the shrinking profit margins in the PC industry than anything else.

"The PC market has transformed into a tactical, commoditized business," Margevicius said. "We're not in an era when the PC is dead. The PC market is flat but it's still a huge business.

"If the PC business was a business that generated 20 percent margins HP's not dumping their PC business," Margevicius said.

In jettisoning its PC unit, HP is taking a page from the playbook of IBM, which sold its PC business to China's Lenovo in 2004 to concentrate on servers, software and services for the enterprise market.

"In a way, these two transactions bookend the transition from hardware to a software- and services-based post-PC focus where the device that runs a service is less important - and profitable - than the service itself," Levy said.

"The trend has been building for years, as margins on hardware have become consistently tighter," the Ontario-based analyst said.

"While it is still possible to build a profitable business based on selling hardware, the returns - coupled with limited future growth potential - are often insufficient for edgy investors," he said.

"HP's move confirms, as if we weren't already convinced, that the box itself no longer matters," Levy said. "It's the value of the software that runs that box, and the services delivered via that software, that are most notable - and profitable - now."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

    Recruitment Genius: Support and Development Engineer

    £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The leading provider of Employee Managem...

    Recruitment Genius: Creative Designer

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Kent based design consulta...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Gazetteer Consultant

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking to work for an ...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'