5 Reasons Why HP Would Spin Out the PC business

Tim Bajarin / August 18th, 2011

There are various reports out today that HP will announce at earnings that they will spin out their PSG unit or their PC business. If they do this it is for a couple of major strategic reasons.

1-Leo Apotheker, HP’s CEO, is a software guy.
He understands software and services and knows that this is the most profitable tech business on the planet. Software and services have margins of 50% to 80% on average. This is the direction he wants and needs to take the company and put all of its energy on this focus. IBM came to this conclusion in 2005 and sold off their PC business to Lenovo for the same reason. And now, if HP is to really compete against IBM, Dell, Oracle etc, in this business it needs to put all of its efforts in this space.

2-They needed to get PSG off of their books.
Although PSG is still profitable, its profits are very small compared to HP’s other businesses. If they kept PSG on the books, even if their other businesses were doing well, it would continue to impact their total earnings numbers and threaten their overall earnings growth. This would be an important strategic move to keep their operating margins up and make sure they are more profitable in the future.

3-PSG would now have its own P&L.
This would allow them freedom to create other types of PC products as well as be more aggressive with the WebOS licensing. And they would still be the key supplier to HP for PC’s in any HP IT bids. But they would be free to sell their PC’s to IBM and others who need PC’s for their own IT projects as well. The PC business is a low margin cutthroat business and if PSG is to stay viable, it needed to be free to sell even to HP competitors.

4-The PC market is going through a great transition now.
PC’s are still viable for use as productivity tools. And we think that we still will sell between 350 and 400 million PC’s a year for a while. But they are commodity products now. They are almost all the same. HP’s PSG may need a lot of partners and different products that would not be in HP’s overall corporate thinking and this gives them more flexibility if they are unshackled from PC’s

5-Tablets will continue to dominate as consumer consumption devices.
While PC’s can still be used for consumption, they are not ideal for a lot of media consumption, especially since people are increasingly mobile these days. At the moment, there is an iPad market and we are not sure when a tablet market that will pan out. HP is already struggling with their TouchPad and they may need to focus on their webOS software as a key market product and as an alternative to iOS and Android, especially in light of Google buying Motorola as the Android vendors may start looking for an alternative. On their own, they could be much more aggressive with webOS, even if it meant not being in the hardware business.

It will be interesting to see what the details of the spin-out will be if it is announced later today. But there are a lot of good reasons HP’s board might have decided to let it go off on its on.

Once the formal news is out and we have reflected on the details we will publish a more formal analysis including the details of the announcement.

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.
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