San Francisco – — Personal computer sales have been in a slump for years, as customers flock to increasingly powerful smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. Now Hewlett-Packard, the Silicon Valley stalwart that was once the world’s biggest seller of personal computers, is splitting off its PC and printing businesses. It’s the latest shakeup in a tech industry that’s being reshaped by the mobile revolution.
IBM sold its PC business years ago. Dell took its struggles private. Can an HP spinoff focused on personal computing thrive?
“There’s a significant transformation going on in that industry, and maybe now HP can make its move,” said Forrester tech analyst Peter Burris, one of several analysts who say the tech giant will need to get better at building and selling mobile gadgets if it wants the spinoff to succeed. HP has stumbled in previous efforts to sell those devices.
HP’s split is a sign that CEO Meg Whitman sees more growth and profit opportunity in selling commercial tech products, including data-center hardware, business software and cloud services, some analysts say. That’s the business she plans to lead, as chief executive of a new company dubbed Hewlett-Packard Enterprise.
That puts more pressure on the HP Inc. spinoff, which will be led by current PC and printing executive Dion Weisler as CEO. Though it was once the world leader in both segments, HP is now No. 2 to China’s Lenovo in PC sales.
Tablets now out-sell laptop computers. And no other major U.S. tech company is focused on selling only PCs. Apple Inc.’s growth in recent years has been fueled by the phenomenal success of its iPhone and iPad devices. Dell also sells commercial computer hardware and software. Even Lenovo is purchasing IBM’s server business and taking over the Motorola smartphone division from Google Inc.
Printer ink has been a major source of profit for HP. But printing also is a stagnating business, as more people store photos and files online and view them primarily on phones and tablets. Even so, tying the printing business to PCs should provide a stable source of revenue for HP Inc. for some years to come, said tech analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights and Strategy.
HP also could expand that business to include 3-D printing systems and home networks for Internet-enabled thermostats and other gadgets, since many printers today are part of a home network, he added.
Jettisoning PCs doesn’t necessarily make Hewlett-Packard Enterprise a slam dunk. Analysts say HP has some good data-center products, but Whitman faces challenges in upgrading its commercial software and technology services businesses.
“Does this mean a new dawn is here for Palo Alto?” asked Burris. “No, it doesn’t. It means that HP is going to have to do a lot of hard work to prove itself.”
Hewlett-Packard has posted revenue declines in 11 of the past 12 quarters and laid off tens of thousands of people in recent years as it attempts to cut costs. During its most recent quarter HP reported revenue of $27.6 billion, a 1 percent annual gain. It marked HP’s first year-over-year increase in quarterly revenue since late 2011.