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HP Rethinking Wisdom of Spinning Off PC Division 239

bdking writes "After signing off on former CEO Leo Apotheker's proposal to spin off or sell HP's personal computer unit, the company's braintrust is reassessing the wisdom of dumping a division that contributes nearly 30% of revenue and holds together a valuable supply chain." HP appears concerned not so much for the revenue generated by PC hardware, but instead by access to various distribution and supply channels. It seems that just announcing a spin-off has affected their access to retail distributors.
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HP Rethinking Wisdom of Spinning Off PC Division

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  • My thoughts (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jesseck ( 942036 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @12:29PM (#37691768)
    I won't purchase an HP device (didn't before, either) and don't recommend them to friends and family (didn't then, either). This is just reinforcement of my beliefs. Who wants to own a device, that the manufacturer doesn't want themselves?
    • Well, I don't care what anyone says, the mid-range and high-end HP printers are still among the best. As much as I think HP seems poised to jump into a deep dark chasm, I hesitate to imagine what will happen if it actually does. I'm not terribly interested in their PCs and was stung by two of their notebooks, and their low-end printers are just as shitty as Lexmark's or Canon's, but if you're looking at mid-range color printers or at high end stuff, HP is tough to beat.

      • Have you tried Brother's printers. They work pretty well, are reasonably priced and have Linux drivers that work. I have been using their Laser printer for the past 3 years now and it has never disappointed me.

        • My personal preference is toward Samsung printers. They publish their own Linux drivers and haven't let me down in terms of reliability/performance.
          • My personal preference is toward Samsung printers. They publish their own Linux drivers and haven't let me down in terms of reliability/performance.

            I heard Canon is suing them for making their printers shaped like a rectangle with paper trays. ;P

        • by ajlitt ( 19055 )

          Don't forget the cheap and DRM unencumbered ink and toner. From what I understand, the page counter in their toner cartridges is entirely mechanical and easy to reset.

          • by afidel ( 530433 )
            He said midrange and high end (ie LJ4250 and up), there's no DRM or toner page counters on those units.
            • Yup. I wouldn't touch their low-end consumer printers. Expensive garbage. But we've got quite a few $300 and up Laserjets, and other than the NIC in one of the three year old units a few months ago (it's now sitting at home on my boss's computer hooked up via USB), they've been rock solid. I have an old 4P and 4000, and replacement parts are readily available, and those two units, well, they don't have any bells and whistles, but damn if they don't just blood well work.

        • Another satisfied Brother user. The designed-to-be-refilled toner cartridges are great.

          As for linux drivers, I find that's always the tip of the iceberg. Lack of linux drivers is an excellent indicator that windows versions get drop FAST, and crappy drivers in general. Canon, I'm looking at you.

        • I refuse to buy a printer that doesn't support postscript. Who needs vendor-specific drivers when there have been standardized page-layout languages for decades?

          • My old Brother laser supported PostScript, but printing PCL was a lot faster because rasterising a complex PostScript document (e.g. the output from LaTeX) on a 50MHz MIPS processor in the printer took a long time. I've recently bought a cheap Dell all-in-one colour LED printer. It can print from and scan to PDFs, and doesn't even need a computer: you can print PDFs directly from a USB device. It also talks SMB and FTP, so I can scan to an SMB or FTP server.
            • by msobkow ( 48369 )

              PCL works as well as postscript.

              The point is to avoid printers that require binary drivers or which try to leech off the system CPU to do the rasterization. Printers that do their own rasterization are not that much more expensive.

              Personally I have an HP LaserJet 1200. It's served me well for many years, though it's cartridges are getting pretty pricy nowadays. Even with the price increases, though, it's still a lot cheaper to run than any inkjet I've ever seen.

              When shopping for a printer, check t

        • by HiThere ( 15173 )

          My impression of the Brother linux drives is "lousy!!". The 410jw can't scan over a network, and every system upgrade means TRYING to find out how to reinstall the drivers. It's bad enough that I went out and bought an HP Officejet after buying a new Brother printer. I could get it to scan if attached via USB cable, but not over the network.

          OTOH, the HP would only print in draft mode on anything other than bog-standard paper. This is vile as one of my major uses involves printing on colored paper, and a

          • by bjwest ( 14070 )

            You get what you pay for, my friend. Stay away from those cheep ass consumer printers and get something good. If the HP printer you bought doesn't use PCL or Postscript, throw it in the trash and buy a real printer.

            If a printer needs drivers, it was designed for Windows.

        • Another vote for Brother. In this case, you actually can have all three of "faster, better, cheaper."

          AFAICT they've never done the advertising campaign to get that "enterprise-class" cachet (which in turn, again AFAICT, is based purely on what MBAs tell other MBAs, and has nothing whatsoever to do with quality or features) so you won't see many of them in big-corp workgroups. But if you're choosing a printer yourself for your home or small business, they're the way to go.

        • I've had a Brother at home (HL5250 DN) for over 4 years now, and I haven't had to buy toner for it even once yet. Granted, it's just light home use - we've probably only put a few reams of paper through it total - but that's still pretty impressive. And the number of paper jams has probably been no more than ten, and it's usually because we've done something stupid to jam the output tray.
          • Granted, it's just light home use - we've probably only put a few reams of paper through it total - but that's still pretty impressive

            Afaict for a decent laser printer that is nothing unusual. Unlike inkets laser printers seem fine with periods of non-use and even the low end ones have pretty big cartridges.

            According to it's specs your printer should do 3500 pages (that's 7 reams single sided or 3.5 reams duplex) on the included "standard yeild" cartridge. I'm sure other printers I have looked at in a similar size/price range had were pretty similar specs.

        • +1. I also like how they have an app to print stuff wirelessly from both iOS and Android.

          Used their inkjet MFC with great results for several years, just recently replaced it with a color laser which is also good.

      • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @12:43PM (#37691966)

        I'm sure everyone has their opinion, but after throwing away a bunch of $2000 HP printers in the last year, we've had enough.

        I started buying Xerox and Oki printers and so far, they have been fantastic. The Okis in particular seem to be built well enough to take a bullet, and the toner cartridges are huge compared to an equivalent HP printer, yet they are priced about the same.

        I think we are done with HP forever at this point.

        • Let's just mention that whoever is responsible for the atrocity that is the "HP Universal Print Driver" ought to spend an eternity with fire ants exploring their sinuses...

          Never have I seen software that is more baroque, or less reliable, at the seemingly simple task of sending PCL or postscript over a network to a printer with an embedded RIP.
          • Never have I seen software that is more baroque, or less reliable

            You have obviously not tried HP scanner software. Our scanner will not work on Windows (it did when new, but the UI was so confusing no one managed to do what they actually wanted to). It works on Linux OK though. Before we found that out, we switched to Cannon.

            No more HP stuff here!

            • If you use an HP multifunction printer, its your own darn fault if bad things happen. I thought everyone knew to avoid those things.

            • too true. We gave up on HP scanners about a decade ago, although to be fair, I can't say that Cannon or Epson have great software. It just doesn't suck as bad as HPs.
            • by kcbnac ( 854015 )

              Ha! My dad bought an HP desktop several years ago (his last off-the-shelf system, now we're building them from parts) - and his HP scanner wouldn't work with it. Something to do with the USB chipset in the motherboard prevented HP's scanner from working with an HP PC.

              Yes, a USB device with specific incompatibilities with a specific computer, by the same manufacturer.

          • ...with fire. And put through a wood chipper. Makes using networked HP printers, which we've used for decades, pure hell.
        • I'm sure everyone has their opinion, but after throwing away a bunch of $2000 HP printers in the last year, we've had enough.

          I started buying Xerox and Oki printers and so far, they have been fantastic.

          Your timing is prescient - all of our HP printers were recently replaced by Xerox machines at my workplace. They do put out some nice prints, although I wouldn't say they are better than the HP ones. I'm fairly insensitive to print-quality -- however, yesterday at a meeting with some clients that rarely see print-outs from my office, someone asked if we had just gotten new printers.

          Anyway -- I have noticed that what I would call our Xerox "workgroup-class" printers are really loud. The analogy "It sounds l

          • Anyway -- I have noticed that what I would call our Xerox "workgroup-class" printers are really loud. The analogy "It sounds like it's barfing a sheet of paper at a time" was used by two different people on two different occasions.
            We just got the same thing at our office and in addition to the noise is the fun of finding out where to turn off automatic form feed, since everybody is now dumping a blank page after every job
      • That is the sad part. They have always made great printers. But their PCs/laptops are crap for the most part. Even their customer support isn't good. The only people worse in CS and product is Sony imo. Their VIO line is a crapfest. If HP would concentrate on what they do best, printers, they could destroy the marketshare and make up for any losses they had from the PC/laptop market.
        • The HP Probooks-- specifically the 4000 line-- are remarkably good, and are among the best laptops Ive used.

          • by afidel ( 530433 )
            We like the Elitebooks, they've been about as reliable as our Lenovo Thinkpads at about 2/3rds the price.
            • I picked up a demo 8460p elitebook. Its about as thick and heavy as most contestants on the Biggest Loser. Its like something out of Dell's late 1990s lineup. Its faux MacBook casing isn't helping matters either.

              For around the same price I'm switching to Lenovo, getting a much slimmer and nicer machine, and a heck of a lot less crapware on the standard image.

              Considering how many elitebooks have failed for us in the past couple of years (25%) as well as their docks, I'm happy to get rid of HP. May you have

              • by afidel ( 530433 )
                25% failure rate? WTF are your people doing to them? We've had a 2-3% AFR over the last 3 years which is comparable to the T6x we were using when we started switching over. Our numbers are over a fleet of ~500 laptops. As for the standard image, we could care less as every machine gets our corporate image.
                • That includes dock failures. The laptop themselves have a better rate without the dock issues.

                  Its major faults were:

                  1. Drive failure. Not sure if we got a run of duds, but I think 5% alone here.
                  2. Fan failure. CPU fan would stick to 100% then die completely after a few days. Another 5%.

                  All of these machines save one or two are pampered and usually docked. No heavy loads or anything. Just bum hardware.

                  I have a couple of machines that don't use the standard image and its ridiculous how bad these HPs are. 3

      • Re:My thoughts (Score:4, Interesting)

        by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:13PM (#37692414)

        their low-end printers are just as shitty as Lexmark's or Canon's

        Somewhere in China there's a factory that makes the internals for ALL cheap printers and depending on incoming orders puts them in a slightly different case and slaps a different sticker on the box. Ditto the laptops, clothes, etc.

        Its like being astounded that the quality of the clothes at walmart, target, and kohls are all about the same, when they all came outta the same political prisoner staffed sweatshop and arrived onshore inside the same shipping container. Its not like the more expensive store sprinkles their clothes with "cool dust" or something. At the bottom, its all just junk.

        Since the support for all of them is going to be a call center in India where a dude tells you to reinstall XP even if you tell him you have a mac, you may as well just buy the cheapest one.

        This does not explain why Brother's printers just absolutely rock. Work on linux outta the box, scanner/fax function works outta the box, supports ipv6 for something like a decade. Rare to have a mechanical problem, rarely jams. "Just works" kinda like HP stuff used to B.C. (Before Carly)

        There is a swamp at the bottom of the barrel where it all sucks, but a step up from that and there's some good products out there.

        • Somewhere there's a plant that makes the internals for all the expensive printers too. I worked on a line that alternately spit out HP and some other brand(s) of laser printers, depending on the sales orders. Differences were in the outer housing and the pcb, mostly.
        • by KliX ( 164895 )

          I recommend Brother printers to anyone that asks me for advice. I've never had a complaint, never had a breakdown.

          They are awesome. Ours is 10 years old and still as good as the day it was bought.

        • by gonz ( 13914 )

          Agreed, I have nothing but great stuff to say about my Brother printer. Cheap price, excellent usability, long lifetime including toner carts, really good drivers even for OS's that are newer than the printer, and a ton of advanced features that normally are only available for high end printers.

      • Ok, I'm going to do my own "ask Slashdot" here. Anyone have any good suggestions for a business-grade color laser multifunction printer? (I only need the printer and scanner; I don't know why they bother with fax any more.) A used model is fine.

        I've had very good success in the past buying used HP printers on Ebay, first a LaserJet 2100M and then a LaserJet 2300d, which I still use. This 2300 is great; it supports Postscript, and has a 600N J3113A JetDirect ethernet card in it, so it's just used as a ne

    • Re:My thoughts (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Crudely_Indecent ( 739699 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:02PM (#37692238) Journal

      I always had a rule when purchasing PCs. Now, this rule has since lost much of it's impact, since one of the manufacturers went poof, and the other two merged -

      Never buy a computer with PACK/PAQ in the name. At the time, this included Hewlett Packard, Compaq, and Packard Bell

      Although losing much of it's impact, the rule still stands (at least for me)

  • Time to reboot and upgrade the kernel or something.

  • by dzfoo ( 772245 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @12:30PM (#37691794)

    Did I miss something? Is HP begin run by Reed Hastings now?


  • Fire the board (Score:5, Interesting)

    by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <onyxruby@comc[ ].net ['ast' in gap]> on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @12:33PM (#37691818)

    Fire the board, they showed their stripes years ago with Carly, and again with other bungled decisions. They have got to be the most incompetent board for any company of their size in the world. The board lost the HP way long ago, and it hasn't changed that much since then.

    The whole rotting thing has got to go and the culture has to restored from the top. Nothing less will do.

    • Re:Fire the board (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jeng ( 926980 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @12:36PM (#37691866)

      I was going to suggest that they fire the CEO and get someone who will do the job for less compensation and no golden parachute. I figure if they do that then their applicant pool would open up to up and comers who want to prove themselves while hopefully turning away those who just want a big payday.

      But your idea of firing the board probably makes more sense.

      • by kcbnac ( 854015 )

        The new CEO is just that. She's getting paid $1/year in compensation - and a significant portion (2/3?) of her stock options are based on the HP stock hitting certain $ values at certain points in the future.

        If they let her go, her parachute is worth 1.5 times her yearly compensation.

        Bonuses are the only way she can get cash outright.

        Had found the original info from Google Stocks on HPQ, they do news-by-day and list when articles came out graphed to the price, was at some other site when I saw it a few wee

        • so basically her pay is based on short term stock values, relatively speaking. thats an awesome way to build a company that will endure!
    • Re:Fire the board (Score:5, Insightful)

      by laffer1 ( 701823 ) <luke@foolishgame[ ]om ['s.c' in gap]> on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @12:40PM (#37691932) Homepage Journal

      I recommend looking at who's currently on the board at HP. It explains everything. There's a ridiculous number of hedge fund managers and similar type people. They've only got one real HP person on the board and that person is from enterprise marketing or something like that. No one on the board understands their products or what they do except possibly this marketing person.

      You would think a company like HP would have at least a few people who've run tech companies on their board.

      • Re:Fire the board (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @12:57PM (#37692196) Journal
        They really ought to experiment with outsourcing the board of directors to a call center somewhere.

        It would't necessarily generate better leadership; but 8-12 incomprehensible guys allegedly named "Robert" somewhere in the far east would provide incomprehensible decisions and inconsistent directions for several factors of ten less money...
        • by Jeng ( 926980 )

          Actually since they understand the product better than the board and have a good idea of how the customers use and view the product they probably would generate better leadership.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ( 1665555 )
      The real HP was spun off by Carly into Agilent. As far as I know they are still doing just fine doing all those things that the original HP used to do.
  • MBA bullshit. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @12:34PM (#37691844) Homepage Journal
    Thats what happens when mbas take over running of corporations. Everything is geared towards teaching of maximizing profit minimizing costs in those programs in ultimate end, and even if some programs incorporate engineering concepts like systems management and so on, the mba types eventually lack on strategic planning and vision.

    flop. thats what you get if you hire too much suits or put them in charge.
    • Re:MBA bullshit. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sbrown123 ( 229895 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @12:56PM (#37692164) Homepage

      It has little to do with having an MBA. These boards are usually staffed with people assigned by majority holders for their ability to "maximize profits". But companies can only grow so much and the economy goes up and down. Investors don't want waves, only inclines. To keep their well paid jobs these MBA's, as you call them, do whatever they can. This usually means some imaginative book keeping, slashing staff, and trying to outsource where possible. The really good MBA's only stick around for a short period since their work always have a quick fall to follow. And who wants to be on a sinking ship?

      • by msobkow ( 48369 )

        Corporations have an obligation to turn a profit.

        They do not have an obligation to turn an obscene profit, short-term profits, a high stock-market value, nor to line the pockets of executives and board members with "golden parachute" options.

        The whole world's corporations need to get back to research, innovation, and a focus on quality products. To hell with the hedge fund managers, the banks, and all the rest of the blood-suckers who do NOTHING for the economy except bleed it dry.

    • Thats what happens when engineers take over running of corporation. Everything is geared towards teaching of maximizing profit minimizing costs in those programs in ultimate end, and even if some programs incorporate business concepts like systems management and so on, the engineers types eventually lack on strategic planning and vision.

      The PC business is a tough business to be in. You have a lot of competition. Dell, Lenovo, Apple. The home consumer market is more willing to hold on to their PC for 2 more

      • by Super_Z ( 756391 )

        The problem is sometimes companies get too diverse, and need to sell off units that they are distracting from their core business or perhaps may be hindering it mind share.

        As an aside, Lenovo has moved into tablets, servers and financial services. Lenovo bladeservers, diskarrays and consultants are probably right around the corner.

    • Thats what happens when mbas take over running of corporations.

      This is my number 1 rule of business: never let an MBA run your company.


      I have yet to meet anyone with an MBA, in any capacity, who has any idea of what they're doing.
  • Derp derp derp! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @12:35PM (#37691854)

    When HP absorbed EDS they thought they'd finally be able to compete in the lucrative snake oil business of large scale "consulting" (a la IBM), but after a massive reorg and an almost precision extraction of any talent prevalent in the EDS husk they're left with nothing but the most clueless of drabs.

    To watch them flail around and try to bail out of this self-inflicted situation by dumping their hardware division has been entertaining.

  • How much of that revenue comes from the huge bundle of pre-installed of demos?

    However, their PC tower at a big box store was competitive priced compared with a generic import computer store.

    Generally I don't support HP, tho I was very impressed with the Green packaging a friends new printer came with.. no plastic wrappers, instead it all was packaged in a re-usable shopping totebag and accessory pouch.
    • Generally I don't support HP, tho I was very impressed with the Green packaging a friends new printer came with.. no plastic wrappers, instead it all was packaged in a re-usable shopping totebag and accessory pouch.

      The design of which they probably outsourced to some 'green' marketing company. Nothing wrong with it - but it's hardly why we held HP in such esteem.

  • shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.

  • by silverglade00 ( 1751552 ) <silverglade00@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @12:53PM (#37692104)
    I just got an email from HP about this. HP's Personal Systems Group is the #1 PC maker on the planet, and that won't change. I can assure you our future is brighter than ever. Spirit of a Startup Our preferred course to harness our vision of the future is to build a separate, more agile company. It's time to think like a startup again. It's time to be nimble and revolutionary. It's time again for world-changing innovation. And so, it's time we realized we're at a crossroads in an evolving HP. But don't misunderstand: We-the same great folks who make HP PCs today-will make them tomorrow. We will continue to build on our legacy creating reliable, stylish, and high-performance PCs to improve your personal and professional life.
  • by Tenek ( 738297 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @12:53PM (#37692106)
    Well, somebody has to use the Quikster name, might as well be them.
  • Especially Best Buy which is, I'm sure, a not insignificant partner. After the complete abortion that was Touchpad, retail stores are going to be hesitant about stocking up on product. HP shipped units to them, then almost immediately tanked the price and ran.
  • the company's braintrust is reassessing the wisdom of dumping a division that contributes nearly 30% of revenue and holds together a valuable supply chain.

    Not to mention a significant chunk of jobs. We have enough unemployed (read: competition to get a job) as it is, thanks.

  • I'm not going to belabor the point that the spin off wasn't a good idea. The problem now is that they're coming off as indecisive, unsure, rudderless, out of control, pick your metaphor.

  • I see a lot of really strange business trends going on. It seems so many companies are announcing terribly thought out decisions, and then reversing their opinion, and an entirely different set are content to do nothing but play a game with patents, where nobody builds or designs anything anymore, they just collect up the patents and sue people who actually are building and designing things. Why does this feel like some really weird corporate-hijinks fiction novel we're living in?
  • by sco_robinso ( 749990 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @01:09PM (#37692342)
    HP has always had extremely poor support at the consumer level, IMO. I remember about 10 years ago I wanted to buy a replacement Li-Ion battery for the OEM NiMH that came with my HP. With credit card and HP part number and SKU in hand, I called the HP store. I was transferred to literally 5 different people before I just gave up. I never did get a new battery, living with the ~40 minute degraded life of the NiMH for the next couple months.

    I've had great success with their printers, though. I still think at the mid-to-high business end, they're very solid machines. I recently worked at an office that used Ricoh's, and never again with I touch Ricoh printers. They can't even get simply LDAP right...
    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      Yeah, I had an HP scanner and it was great. But I moved across the Atlantic so it won't work anymore because the power adapter is 220V and they won't sell me a 110V adapter for less than the cost of a new scanner.

      That was one of the reasons why they lost a $1200 sale to Toshiba when I bought my laptop last year.

  • We buy oodles of them. A shipment of ten every week or so. We clone them and crank them and prep them and deploy them in a neverending cycle to keep our clients (many of whom are also growing) up to date with decent machines. Their business class desktops are reliable little workhorses, and my office was nervously considering the prospects of what we would have to do if the supply of HP boxes disappeared. I volunteered to hand build machines from kits, but I don't think my boss took me seriously.
  • When I heard they were "considering" spinning off their PC division my first thought was...Guess who's sales of PC electronics just took a nose dive? Sure their margins are razor thin but they had sales. Who wants to buy a product that may not be supported in 6 mo. because the company that made it no longer supports it. Granted hp does that now but the consumer has the illusion of a supporting company. I've watched hp squander opportunity after opportunity. Perhaps it's the Digital Equipment Corporation [] cur
  • They started as a gadget company - lab devices. They got into printers. then computers. Then software services after buying DEC and EDS. I presume they were emulating IBM which moved mostly our of hardware into integrated services.
  • WTF? Seriously? Is there some kind of legitimate fear that stores that can't sell HPs crappy PC's will stop selling their crappy printers? The other major printer companies don't sell PC's, and they seem to be doing just fine.

  • Yeah, yeah, yeah 30% revenue, supply chain and channels of communication... Well it is not a serious problem. Easily solved by firing the CEO, pay for his/her golden parachute and then hiring another hot-shot CEO with a bigger parachute.
  • Seriously, HP would be better off bringing back manufacturing to the states and getting control of their pipelines. By doing what IBM, and Dell did, they will see that they lose the ability to compete with Chinese companies that simply steal the tech and idea. However, if HP brings it back, they gain control. To br

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein