Bloomberg News caused a big stir in the tech world today with a report that Hewlett-Packard is looking to spin off its PC business to focus more on software and cloud services, in connection with a possible acquisition of software maker Autonomy. HP is the largest PC maker in the world, shipping more than 15 million PCs last quarter, according to IDC data.
HP just confirmed the news and also delivered another shocker, saying it will “discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones.”
More on that in this follow-up post.
About the PC business, HP said its board “has authorized the exploration of strategic alternatives for its Personal Systems Group.” It added, “HP will consider a broad range of options that may include, among others, a full or partial separation of PSG from HP through a spin-off or other transaction.”
The Personal Systems Group includes business and consumer PCs. It’s possible that HP will spin the PC business off as a new publicly traded company. But it’s also possible that HP could end up selling the PC business to an existing company.
Which raises the question: Why not Microsoft as a buyer?
Even suggesting this will be heresy to most people in Redmond. Getting into the PC business would be a huge break with tradition for the company, which long ago decided to focus on Windows and applications for a variety of hardware makers. It was a major key to the company’s success. Getting into the PC business would mean competing with its partners — existing Windows PC makers.
Yes, it’s a stretch. I mean, who would be crazy enough to compete with its own hardware partners?
But as I’ve said publicly in the past, I believe the approach that leads to the best computing experience is when the computer is treated as a single product, and a single experience, allowing the operating system and core features to be tightly integrated with the hardware.
Yes, it’s the Apple model. We can debate this forever — and we probably will — but more often than not, in my experience, using Mac OS X on Apple hardware is smoother than using a Windows PC, overall. Macs feel like a single product that come from the same place, or even the same mind.
Again, speaking just from my experience, it’s rare to find a Windows machine that feels like that.
Maybe if Microsoft owned a line of PCs — from the applications to the OS to the drivers to the underlying hardware — it could set an example that would take the Windows ecosystem up a notch.
It might not be the worst thing in the world. But no, of course, it’s not going to happen.