HP confirms: looking to ditch PC division, nix WebOS devices

Well, that story went from rumor to confirmed in record time. Not long after Bloomberg reported it, HP has officially confirmed that it intends explore some sort of spin-off of its PC division and expand its investment in software instead. From the horse's mouth:

HP today commented on the recent announcement by Autonomy Corporation plc (LSE: AU.L). HP confirms that it is in discussions with Autonomy regarding a possible offer for the company.

HP also reported that it plans to announce that its board of directors has authorized the exploration of strategic alternatives for its Personal Systems Group (PSG). HP will consider a broad range of options that may include, among others, a full or partial separation of PSG from HP through a spin-off or other transaction.

There's more. The TouchPad tablet and webOS phones that HP makes? Yeah, those are over, and HP may be looking for a buyer for the webOS operating system. As the company puts it:

In addition, HP reported that it plans to announce that it will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones. HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward.

That news adds another dimension to the "OuchPad" nickname folks have slapped onto HP's tablet. One wonders what Best Buy and other retailers will do with all of those excess black slates now.

This is huge news, but it's just the beginning of what could be a very long process. I've been watching the Twitter chatter from former HP and Voodoo PC guru Rahul Sood. He thinks a total break with the PC business is unlikely, but then he backtracks immediately:

it's just not in HP's DNA to "spin off" -- there would need to be some real linkage or they won't do it. who knows, anything is possible.

Not sure if that's analysis or coping!

Anyhow, there's wisdom in not assuming too much in these situations. We don't know what forms the jettisoning of the PC business and webOS will take. However, with this announcement, HP's leadership has unequivocally signaled a major change in direction for the company.

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