The last week or so has been almost all about Google purchasing Motorola Mobility. Almost. That was before HP announced plans to probably spin-off their PC business, in addition to killing off the TouchPad and Pre webOS based products.
“Consumers are changing the use of their PC,” HP CEO Leo Apotheker said. “The tablet effect is real and sales of the TouchPad are not meeting our expectations. The velocity of change in the personal device marketplace continues to increase as the competitive landscape is growing increasingly more complex especially around the personal computing arena,” he continued. He then repeated, “the tablet effect is real”.
Now, it’s certainly news when the world’s largest PC manufacturer announces that they might be leaving that market.
Rivals of the PC, of course most notably Apple often claim we’re living in a post-PC era, and for the powers that be at Microsoft, the word post is clearly beginning to irk as Microsoft VP of Corporate Communications Frank X. Shaw saw it necessary to blog contending that we live in a “PC plus” era rather than a “post-PC” one, and arguing that smartphones, tablets, and e-readers are “companions” to the PC.
As the biggest fan of Microsoft I know (PC, Hotmail, occasional Bing, Windows Live Mail, Messenger, Writer, to mention but a few of my favorite products), I always get the sense that the PC is an easy target for critics. One executive from a Nigerian IT firm, CWG once told me how we should change the name of PC Tech Magazine because “everything is going mobile now… PC is so yesterday.”
For one of the most successful, profitable, all-around-important inventions of all time, the PC has never gotten much respect. Nothing gets declared dead more than the PC does. I landed on a PC World story commenting on how fashionable it is to declare the PC dead–from 1999.
But let’s forget the elephants’ fights for now, and look at ourselves: the small-office secretary in Uganda, or her boss for that matter, or organizations that run various editions of Windows Server, the institutions that survive on training and certifying people in Microsoft (read: PC) products such as MCSE.
Up to present day, knowledge of Microsoft Office Applications is considered as the benchmark for computer literacy for most employers who add the line, “must be computer literate” in their job adverts.
So the PC isn’t really dead. There’s no question about that.
So why, then, is HP following IBM’s decision of 2005 to drop their PC division?
I think Post-PC device is about the combination of hardware and software all built and integrated by one company. Google doesn’t get that. RIM can’t execute. But with the Palm/webOS purchase, it seemed that HP had both the vision and resources to possibly compete with Apple.
In fact, a year ago, there was talk that that’s what the HP was planning. The subsequent talk about webOS integration across their entire product line as well as the unveiling of the now-dead TouchPad and a new Pre seemed to reaffirm this. But something funny happened on the way to the battle with Apple. Amid scandal, then-HP CEO Mark Hurd was forced to resign.
This happened just three months after HP acquired Palm for $1.2 billion. At the time of the deal, HP said very clearly: “our intent is to double down on webOS“. Again, while they wouldn’t explicitly admit it at the time, the plan was to compete with Apple.
It appears the new CEO didn’t quite get the plan – even though the wheels were already on the ground when he came in. Now they just realized that (Apple-like) model won’t work for them, and they’re instead doing what IBM did.
So going back to our discussion: one of the biggest strengths of the PC is its price. I’ve been planning to buy a Macbook Pro for a few years now. But from the local shop – yes, shop: one shop – here, to get the specs I want, it costs twice the cost of a similar laptop from HP/Dell/Toshiba.
But even then, me, I’m thinking that we don’t live in a post-PC era or a PC plus era. I’ve always preferred to define “PC” loosely–I consider Macs and Linux boxes to be PCs, which is why I prissily refer to “Windows PCs” when most people would simply say “PCs.” But there’s no reason why the definition of “personal computer” must be limited to devices that are recognizable as traditional desktops and laptops. It’s always been elastic, and it’s always changed to fit new kinds of devices.
There was a time when a personal computer was a box with switches on the front. Then they got screens and keyboards–and we still called them PCs.
A few years later, computers arrived that you could fold up and take anywhere. We called those PCs, too.
So at the end of the day, the PC isn’t going anywhere. Not yet, anyway.
And just for laughs, I stumbled upon this InfoWorld editorial of 1982, wondering if the good times were over for the PC business. They weren’t.Hits:1556