updated 05:25 pm EDT, Thu August 18, 2011
HP validates rumors of TouchPad sales
HP as part of its spinoff talk for PCs made an uncommon remark that the iPad had fundamentally changed its business. CEO Leo Apotheker said that tablets were directly responsible for the company looking to possibly exit consumer PCs. The process would take 12 to 18 months, but the company was considering a shift now with neither the TouchPad nor traditional PCs providing an immediate fix.
"There is a clear movement in the consumer PC space," Apotheker said. "The tablet effect is real. The TouchPad is not gaining enough traction in the marketplace. Our PC business needs the flexibility to make its own decisions."
He added that webOS' hardware shutdown would wrap up in the fall.
The company's CFO commented that it had made a "bet" on webOS and had set targets for it to sell well. It had planned to make webOS the second-strongest platform in tablets behind Apple. Long-term support would have needed five years' worth of investment without a clear reward, HP said. Even with price parity or better, it was clear the TouchPad wasn't going to reach that target.
The VP for Worldwide webOS Developer Relations, Richard Kerris, hinted on Twitter that the company would be looking at a direct selloff of webOS, not just a license. "Now we can explore the best hardware partner for it," he said.
The statement on PCs is effectively a warning shot to Microsoft. The Windows developer has tried to take an optimistic view regarding the iPad and other non-Windows tablets, calling it a "PC-plus era" and often suggesting that the perceived effect was exaggerated. Now, however, it faces the prospect of its most important partner both acknowledging the iPad as being responsible for steep PC declines and getting rid of its PC business, casting doubt on its future.
Other companies have faced the effect so far, most notably Acer and ASUS. Both have seen sharp dropoffs in sales as their netbook and low-end notebook sales fell off sharply. Both are reorganizing and focusing more of their mobile efforts around tablets, but neither has yet to see their first products completely offset declines in PCs.