For nearly 30 years, personal computers as we have known them have been the drivers of the technology engine. From Intel to Microsoft to Dell to HP to Micron Technology — many fortunes were made on the back of the PC. But the rise of mobile computing is upending the technology business and is simultaneously redefining what is a personal computer and how we use it.
On Thursday Hewlett-Packard, one of the oldest companies in Silicon Valley with deep connections to the PC ecosystem (they paid $25 billion for Compaq in 2002) and the world’s largest seller of PCs, confirmed it is looking to sell off its personal computing business. It’s also getting out of the hardware game altogether, ditching its tablet and smartphone operations too. But if HP does eventually find a buyer for its PC division, it will only be catching up with IBM, which in 2004 decided that the low-margin PC business wasn’t worth pursuing.
HP is not the only company that is finding itself on the wrong side of PC history. Earlier this week Dell reported its earnings and acknowledged that its bread-and-butter PC business isn’t what it used to be.
But it’s not just those two. Annual growth rates for the PC industry as a whole have been shrinking in recent years, with small single-digit rates of growth. It can’t be inspiring for the manufacturers looking at their balance sheets.