HP partners are confident a change in ownership for its Personal Systems Group (PSG) will have minimal impact on the channel, but some have voiced fears it could hit sales.
The vendor dropped a triple bombshell last night by announcing its intention to spin off PSG, wind up its fledgling tablet activities and acquire UK software outfit Autonomy.
Steve Brazier, chief executive of analyst Canalys, said HP's decision to exit the PC game had been on the cards since IBM sold its PC division to Lenovo in 2005.
He predicted the $41bn-turnover business would be snapped up and restructured by a private equity (PE) house, before being sold on to an Asian vendor.
"HP's PC business is well run, has an excellent management team, logistics, cost structure and global coverage, and the best channel presence," Brazier told ChannelWeb. "It is in much better shape than IBM's was and there is no reason why someone who buys it cannot make a success of it.
"My guess is it will go to a PE as it is faster and easier for a PE to take decisions about separating it from HP, particularly if restructuring is required. It could then end up with another firm, almost certainly Asian – possibly Korean or Chinese. I would be amazed if Samsung did not take a look, but several Chinese companies may give it some thought, with Huawei and ZTE top of the list."
Brazier argued a change in ownership for PSG would see minimal disruption for HP's resellers because it has been run almost as a separate business from IPG and ESSN since the Solutions Partner Organisation was restructured in 2009.
Sam Routledge, solutions director at HP partner Softcat, agreed with Brazier.
"IBM moving its PC business to Lenovo did not really affect us and I think it will be similar with HP," he said. "We are not scared by this. If PSG went wholesale to another vendor or PE, there would obviously be some teething problems but so long as the transition is smooth and orderly, we should not see much disruption."
Routledge also hailed HP's bid for Autonomy, a vendor not known for its channel credentials.
"It is a good strategic move for HP," he said. "I am quite excited about getting access to that portfolio."
Robert May, managing director of HP partner Ramsac, said the uncertainty engendered by the announcement could hit HP's PC sales.
"People [distributors] holding HP stock may now want to get rid of it, so we may see a lot of short-term bargains for customers buying on spec and price," he said.
"But for multi-year rollouts, the fact that HP has put out this news will probably see an increase in Dell kit. Customers who were choosing between HP and Dell may now go for Dell. I expect to be selling more Dell workstations and PCs."
Another HP partner, who asked to remain anonymous, agreed: "This will be music to the ears of the likes of Lenovo," he said. "This will test end users' loyalty to HP."
Jeremy Davies, founder of analyst Context, said: "On the one hand this can be seen as a massive blow to Europe's distributors, channel and retail partners. However, it is a huge opportunity for the other vendors to fill the gap. My bet? Acer on retail, Lenovo in business."
Last night's announcements have garnered widespread commentary from high-profile industry figures, with even Michael Dell getting in on the act, tweeting: "HP.... They are calling it a separation but it feels like a divorce."
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