HP to spin off PC unit, double down on cloud and software [rumor]
HP got its start in a garage in Palo Alto, making precision audio oscillators. In the years since, HP has expanded into calculators, servers, printers, desktop and laptop computers, software, cloud services, and – most recently – smartphones and tablets powered by webOS.
That may soon change, according to a report by Bloomberg. According to “people with direct knowledge of the matter,” HP is in talks to purchase software firm Autonomy for $4 billion, while simultaneously spinning off their personal computers division into a new business. Obviously this represents a watershed moment for HP and the computing industry in general – HP, like IBM before it – is acknowledging that the PC industry is reaching a crest (or already has crested) and will become a business of declining revenues and profits.
The question is “what does this mean for webOS?” Currently, the webOS Global Business Unit is slotted under the Personal Systems Group – the division that makes HP PCs. HP has been making noise about their plans for webOS since making their purchase of Palm over a year ago, with plans to expand the operating system into new niches like appliances and automobiles (though not likely in a form you’d recognize today) and even servers.
The way we look at it, there are three possible options for webOS and HP: HP could spin off the webOS GBU with the Personal Systems Group and let Todd Bradley and company run that ship. HP could also pluck the webOS GBU from the PSG and keep it for their new cloud-focused self. The final option would be to split the webOS GBU into software and hardware, with the cloud-focused HP taking software and licensing it back to hardware-focused HP PCs (this arrangement would sound awfully familiar to any Palm historian).
The latter two options would better open HP up to licensing out webOS. Without having a stake in Windows-running hardware, HP could develop webOS into a true desktop-caliber operating system of their own that ties back into all of their cloud services.
Regardless, the story of HP and webOS isn’t over just yet, and if Bloomberg’s report pans out, we’ll have our answers in just a few hours when HP releases their quarterly earnings statement and holds a conference call.