HP PCs back on the menu with Dellish plans

HP will be sticking with its PSG group, as it casts its net far and wide. Can it manage?

COMMENT Doing a switcheroo in the tech world is a double-edged sword: you might pull off a strategic masterstroke yet you place the company's reputation and even it's future on the line. Massive decisions can make the difference between a thriving vendor and a soon-to-be-defunct one.

HP has been guilty of two such switcheroos in a matter of months: first announcing plans to either sell or spin-off its PC business, only to do a u-turn on its refreshed strategy last month.

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When ex-CEO Leo Apotheker decided to dump HP's Personal Systems Group (PSG) in limbo, he shocked the tech world by aligning with IBM's software and services-oriented ideology. Now, in keeping its client hardware business, it will continue to drive forward its software and services divisions, whilst producing PCs and tablets.

Rather than dallying in the consumer sphere, HP is moving ahead in the tablet space with a Windows 7-based device.

Yet don't expect HP to cast its net too far into the consumer space anymore. Evidence suggests the US tech giant will pander almost entirely to business, doing little for the consumer anymore. From the hardware perspective at least, HP appears to be doing a Dell.

Bye-bye Mr Consumer

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The key signifier here comes from HP's tablet moves. Just this week, it announced plans to give developers some cut-price TouchPads in a bid to get them working on apps for the platform. Yet HP has not made any commitments to its tablet or announced anything around future webOS devices. It would come as no surprise to see webOS dumped on the operating system scrapheap alongside MeeGo sometime soon.

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Indeed, a report from Reuters, which cited four different sources close to the matter, suggested recently-crowned CEO Meg Whitman was considering selling off webOS. HP only bought Palm and its operating system last year for a whopping $1.2 billion. It appears Whitman is thinking of ways to recoup losses from the costly acquisition.

Rather than dallying in the consumer sphere, HP is moving ahead in the tablet space with a Windows 7-based device the Slate 2. It won't be a general use tab, but will most likely be used in certain verticals, such as education and health, or for manufacturing floors. That's exactly what Dell are doing, having just released the Windows 7-focused ST Latitude. Both will also produce Windows 8 tablets.

It appears HP has recognised it cannot compete with the iPad or Android-based devices, which themselves have seen little uptake in comparison to Apple's massively popular device.

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HP would do well to move away from consumer smartphones too a market Dell is still playing in with little success. Perhaps fortunately, nothing is on the horizon right now.

"Certainly webOS smartphone devices are not in the plans from a UK perspective at the moment," said Paul Hunter, head of HP's PSG division in the UK.

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