By Anand Parthasarathy
HP’s announced intention last night, to shut down its WebOS operations, effectively abandons all those who bought the first HP tablet -- the TouchPad -- fuelled by this operating system, that came to market only months ago. Its decision to spin off its personal computer unit ( which was fuelled in large part by the merger with Compaq in 2002) will also end a computing tradition in the company that goes back to 1966. That was the year, when HP then largely a test and measurements player, launched its first computer, the 2116a minicomputer, mainly as an adjunct to instrumentation systems. (The T&M business, was spun off to form, Agilent, in 1999).
Still a global leader in the printing and imaging sector , HP was seen as slipping from its leadership in the India PC business in recent quarters ( being overtaken by Acer) as Gartner reported earlier this week. It seems focussed on growing the lucrative IT business software and services sector where its acquisition of EDS gave it a lot of leverage. This explains its decision this week, to spend $ 10 billion in buying a UK business software player, Autonomy.
But unkindest cut of all for its non corporate consumer-customers is the ditching of the hand held device business especially the TouchPad which was launched only this year. HP CEO Leo Apothekar said, less than 6 months ago that he would aim to put WebOS on every computing device made by HP . Famous Last words? Or as analysts are saying, an intriguing volte face? This is a ditching akin to Cisco's dump of the Flip video camera soon after acquiring it
In this page we like to talk technologies rather than bottom lines – so we will not venture to speculate or comment on HP’s financial state or vision for itself. But admirers of the famous HP Way -- and of the company’s product line up for lay users in the computing arena – had better get used to talking of HP in the past tense and seeing how best to protect their investment.
HP remains for most of us, a great name for printers – but its now on , now off, affair with the PC is uncharacteristic to say the least. Remember all those ads which said HP reinvents the PC?
No, they never did that. They only reinvented themselves -- abandoning the PC, as a useless appendage.
Aug 19 2011